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B'nai Mitzvah Handbook


Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a beginning. Jewish law has fixed the age of thirteen for boys and twelve for girls as the beginning of adulthood. Therefore, a child legally enters the stage of “responsibility” at that time and becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Being a Bar/Bat Mitzvah means reaching the age of Jewish maturity and assuming the privileges, obligations and responsibilities of following the Mitzvot, the commandments of Jewish law.

This period of training and preparation can be a time of growth and enrichment, not only for the student, but also for the family as a whole. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah should be treated as a catalyst in your child’s life—the time for grappling with ideas and identities, both Jewish and secular. It is a time that can have deep significance, and be of vital importance to your child’s development as an individual and a Jew.


Receiving a Date

We assign dates in January for all children who are 10 years of age. Dates are assigned by a group of lay leaders, known as the B’nai Mitzvah Appeals Committee, under the oversight of Rabbi Matthew Earne. We take the following guidelines into consideration when assigning dates:

  1. We assign dates as close as possible to the child’s 13th Hebrew birthday.
  2. Boys must receive a date after they turn 13 years according to the Hebrew calendar.
  3. Girls may receive a date one month prior or past when they turn 13 years.  This is because according to Talmud, girls can have a Bat Mitzvah when they are 12 years old.
  4. If a family has a tradition that their daughter has a Bat Mitzvah when she is 12 years, please bring this to Rabbi Earne’s attention

Appealing a Date

From time to time, families will need a different date than the one assigned.  The B’nai Mitzvah Appeals Committee will continue to follow our guidelines but will do their best to meet the family’s needs.  If you should need a date change, please contact Rabbi Earne who can discuss what options are available before he presents the appeal to the committee.


Unless requested, we try to avoid having children share their Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.  However, we reserve the right to assign sharing a date if no other space is available.  If that is the case, we will update families more than a year in advance so families can plan accordingly.


Preparation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah begins when the child enters religious school. It is expected that every child be enrolled in the Beth Am Jewish Learning Center, Beth Am Sabra Program or a Jewish Day School before and during his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. It is important to remember and to impress upon our children that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not the end of their Jewish Education but rather a very important milestone within it.

Formal Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation tutorials begin approximately six months prior to a child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah date and continue until the ceremony.  Tutors will be assigned by Rabbi Earne and will contact you to arrange a schedule.


Since the cornerstone of the rite is being called to the Torah for an Aliyah to recite the blessings, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can take place any time the Torah is read. Traditionally, the Torah is read every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Torah is also read every Festival morning and on Rosh Hodesh (the New Moon) each month. Please remember that Congregation Beth Am is an egalitarian synagogue and that service participation follows the guidelines as such.


The Bar/Bat Mitzvah program is specialized to prepare each individual with the necessary skills and knowledge. Please see the following requirements:

All candidates must be Jewish.  Please feel free to discuss any issues relating to this with one of the rabbis.

It is synagogue policy that all families be members in good standing: that all dues, fees and other financial obligations are 100% fulfilled at least 6 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

Jewish Education - All candidates must have successfully completed 5th through 7th grade in a formal Jewish education program. During their 7th grade year, all students and families, regardless of where they are in school, will participate in Beth Am’s monthly Tallit ’N T’fillin (TNT) Program.  Each student and family will also participate in the Mitzvah Program, which is incorporated into the monthly TNT schedule.

Shabbat Attendance - Regularly attending Friday evening and Saturday morning services before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is paramount. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and their family are expected to attend Shabbat Services at least twelve (12) times during the twelve months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Of the twelve services, nine should be Shaharit, depending on the service in which your child will be participating.  We also give credit for students who attend services at another congregation.  Please email Bonnie Cohen so she can keep track.

All males are required to wear a kippah in the sanctuary.  Females participating in the service are required to wear a head covering.

Greeter Duty - As part of our B’nai Mitzvah Program, all students will be volunteers once during the High Holy Days and one other time at a Shabbat service during your B’nai Mitzvah year.  For High Holy Days, you will need to sign-up with the volunteer coordinator.  Rabbi Earne will assign one Shabbat service over the course of your B’nai Mitzvah year.  We ask that parents join their child during greeter duty.  Rabbi Earne will provide the necessary information one week before your turn as greeter.

Tutoring - Approximately six months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, each student will begin a series of individual meetings with one of our tutors.  Students are assigned to a tutor by Rabbi Earne.  Tutors will contact you prior to the beginning of lessons to arrange a tutoring schedule.

Each student is expected to study at home each day to fulfill the assignments given.  We recommend at least half (1/2) an hour of study every day.  Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation is cumulative learning. It must be repeated and reinforced; studying the day before the next lesson will not accomplish this goal.  

We urge parents to carefully supervise your child’s study and preparation for lessons. If at any time during the six (6) months of formal training the student falls behind, the parents must provide additional tutoring at their expense until the student is on schedule. Parents will be regularly informed of their child’s progress.

B’nai Mitzvah in Israel - If you decide to have your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel, please note: 

  1. Beth Am will provide tutoring for your child.
  2. Beth Am may assist you in finding a rabbi in Israel and will coordinate with the rabbi to make sure your child is properly prepared.
  3. Upon your return from Israel, the Beth Am rabbis will invite your child for an Aliyah at a regular Saturday morning service to welcome your child to the adult community at Beth Am. 

Congregation Beth Am Bar/Bat Mitzvah - A Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is where an individual is welcomed to their community as an adult.  Our synagogue has two communal moments over the course of Shabbat when our community is present, Friday night and Saturday morning.  The Bar/Bat Mitzvah student is expected to lead significant parts of both of these services.  

Continued Jewish Education - It is expected that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and their family make a commitment to continue his/her Jewish education at the Beth Am Sabra Program or equivalent. We believe in the importance of continued Jewish education for the development of a committed and educated Jewish adult.


The fee for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program is currently $1200. This fee is in addition to the regular JLC school fees and covers the cost of tutoring, material fees, and other administrative costs. This fee will be charged to your account twelve (12) months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. As our annual dues increase, so too will our B’nai Mitzvah fees and will be billed at the amount in effect twelve (12) months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Fees Include:

  1. Tutoring for 23 Sessions - If student does not come prepared for sessions, and parents would like additional sessions, tutors are available to be hired for additional hours at the rate of $42 per hour.
  2. DVD of Ceremony
  3. Tikkun/Prayer Book
  4. Live Streaming


Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah family will follow this basic schedule:

Attend Shabbat services regularly. This is essential to provide the highest level of comfort for your child on his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah day.

6th Grade Year

Attend three 6th grade Havurah events with classmates.


7th Grade Year 

Attend monthly TNTs as a family.

Work monthly on TNT Mitzvah Projects.


One Year Prior

Schedule meeting with the Executive Director,  Gilad Hoffman to speak about facility arrangements.

Bill assigned to family.


8 - 7 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah 

Call Bonnie Cohen to arrange "six month" meeting with Rabbi Earne.


6 months prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

All families should meet with Rabbi Earne for the “six month” family meeting. 

Students begin weekly tutorial sessions.

Students should be practicing at home at least ½ an hour per day.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee should be paid in full at this time.


5 - 3 Months Prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Student to meet with rabbi to work on speech.

Schedule “six week” Bar/Bat Mitzvah appointments including rehearsal.


6 Weeks Prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Family will meet with the rabbi for the “six week” family meeting.

Student rough draft of speech due at “six week” meeting.


3 Weeks Prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Return completed Honors Sheet to the ritual assistant.

Submit final copy of parents’ speech to rabbi. No more than 500 words.

Submit copy of booklet, if you are making one, to the rabbi for approval.

Meet with rabbi to tie tzitzit on the tallit.

Week of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah


Bar/Bat Mitzvah rehearsal at 11:30 am


During the week preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a rehearsal is held with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student, the parents, and the rabbi in the sanctuary. The rehearsal takes one and one-half hours (1-1/2 hours) and is important to ensure a smooth flowing Bar/Bat Mitzvah day. 

Photography - You may want to have a professional photographer take pictures to commemorate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Please remember that no photography, professional or amateur, is permitted at the Synagogue or on its grounds on Shabbat. The facilities of the synagogue are available before or after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah day for taking “simulated” poses. In practice, most people use the time of the rehearsal for taking pictures.

Video - Professional video recording is not permitted in the Synagogue on Shabbat. However, through the gift of the 1987 Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class, which contributed timer-generated recording equipment, we are now able to record your son’s/daughter’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The recording is from a simple, stationary camera and provides a wide-view of the entire pulpit.  A DVD will be provided to you after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Please call the office to arrange pick-up.

Streaming B’nai Mitzvah Per Request - We are now live streaming B’nai Mitzvah services per your request.  Please contact the office for more information.


Food Baskets - In lieu of flowers, we ask that you donate two food baskets for the needy to be displayed on the bimah. The contents of the baskets are given to Jewish Family Service after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and should contain certified KOSHER food.  Usually, you may choose empty baskets the Congregation has on hand for this purpose.  If you choose to display flowers or plants they must be in addition to the food baskets.

Religious Items - Your child will want to have his/her own Tallit and Kippah for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Any of the Jewish bookstores in the area will carry these items.

Invitations - Any reputable printer can print Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitations in varieties of script, colors and designs. Please remember to include an invitation to the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat Service on your invitations.  The office can confirm the time the Friday service is scheduled to begin.

It is important to keep in mind that Judaism is about community-building. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is an important transition into adulthood and how invitations are handled is a lesson in itself.  It is disappointing for an individual child to attend a service of a classmate when everyone else is invited for the festivities and they are not, especially when comments are made that exclude the individual. Therefore, if you are planning to invite more than 50% of your child’s classmates, we encourage you to invite the whole class.  Please obtain a current mailing list from Rabbi Earne as close to your anticipated mailing date as possible.


Proper attire includes knee length skirts or dresses (modest attire) for girls, and slacks with collared shirts for boys. Once students have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they should wear talitot each Shabbat morning. Short skirts, bare shoulders, and bare midriffs are not acceptable, and people so dressed will be asked to cover themselves before entering the sanctuary. We urge all honorees to be conservatively and appropriately dressed as well. 

All men, regardless of their faith, are required to wear a kippah in the synagogue building. Females participating in the service are required to wear a head covering. Jewish men and women may wear a tallit (prayer shawl) during appropriate t’fillot. 

Please review with your son/daughter how to sit on a raised platform.


Friday Shabbat Candle Lighting - Grandmother(s), Mother(s), Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Sister(s) come up on the bimah for the Shabbat candle blessing. Recite the candle lighting berakhah (blessing) found on page 301.

Parent Blessing - Parents can present their own blessing when they present the tallit at the beginning of the service or parents can present their own blessing for the child’s next step on their journey at the end of the service.

Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv Service - Bar/Bat Mitzvah is encouraged to lead English reading on pages 23 & 33, Vishamru and Hatzi Kaddish.

Kiddush - Grandfather(s), Father(s), Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Brother(s) come up to recite the Kiddush.


Birkhot HaShahar & Pesukei d’Zimra - led by the student(s), a family member, or a congregation member.  This is up to parents based on your child’s ability.

Shaharit - led by the student(s), a family member, or a congregation member.

Torah Service - led by the student(s). At the beginning of the Torah Service, parents, grandparents and siblings walk slowly to the Ark. The Ark is opened, the crown is placed on the Torah, and the Torah is handed down from generation to generation.

At a service with two B’nai Mitzvah students, the Torah will be passed through one family and then through the second family.  The student receiving the Sefer Torah second will carry it through the congregation to the shulhan (table). The other student will carry the Sefer Torah as it returns to the Ark.

Family members stand together in a straight line on the bimah, facing the congregation, while the prayers of Sh’ma, Ehad and Gadlu (pg 141) are recited. As the student carries the Torah through the congregation family members should follow the Torah until they reach their seats, at which point they return to their seats.

Torah Readings - The student generally reads at least one Torah portion. Family members and friends are called up to the Torah for the Aliyot. Families are given the privilege of distributing many of these honors to family and friends. The Congregation can provide CD’s to help honorees in practicing the Hebrew blessings which are assigned to them.

All students, whether a Shaharit or Minha service, shared or single, will have three (3) Aliyot to distribute to their family. Typically, one of these is reserved for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, one for the parents, and the third for the grandparents or other honoree.  The other Aliyot will go either to the other Bar/Bat Mitzvah family or to other members of the congregation. 

At our Synagogue, both men and women are called to the Torah. In the past, some honorees have had difficulty chanting the blessings. We insist that those who are chosen for Aliyot be thoroughly competent to recite the Torah blessings, so as not to cause empressement. Blessings can be located on page 142 of the Siddur.  The music can be learned by requesting a CD from Rabbi Earne or the tutor.

Family members are encouraged to learn one of the Torah Portions to chant in honor of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child. Please understand that the portion read from the Torah Scroll does not have vowels and takes significant preparation. ‘Cheat sheets’ will not be permitted at the shulhan

All family members assigned a Torah reading that are not regular Torah reads at Beth Am, must be heard by our ritual assistant or Rabbi Earne.  This is to ensure all of your guests are set up for success and not an embarrassing situation in front of friends and family.

Following the Maftir reading, the honors of Hagbah (lifting the Torah), and Gelilah (binding and dressing the Torah) are available for your family. 

If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service, one family will distribute the honors of Hagbah and Gelilah and the other family will distribute the honors of the prayers found slightly later in the Torah Service.

Prior to the reading of the Haftarah portion the Bar/Bat Mitzvah presents a short speech. 

If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service one will read the first portion of the Haftarah and do his/her speech on the Haftarah, and the other will read the second portion of the Haftarah and do his/her speech on the Torah portion prior to its reading.

Following the Haftarah, parents come up to the Shulhan for the Parental Blessing (provided for you). At this point the student has the option of reading the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Pledge. The Rabbi will discuss the pledge with the student during their meetings together.

Additional honors which the family has the opportunity to distribute are: A Prayer for Our Country on page 148 (English), A Prayer for the State of Israel on page 149 (English or Hebrew), and A Prayer for Peace on page 149 (English).  All are available on our Beth Am website, click here to go to the page.

If there are two B’nai Mitzvah students participating in the service, these prayers will be distributed by the family which is not assigning Hagbah and Gelilah.

Other honors include opening the Ark at the end of the Torah Service. When the Torah is returned to the Ark, those being honored precede the Torah to open the Ark and will be instructed to close the Ark at the appropriate time.

Parents are invited to write their own blessing for their child to be delivered at the beginning of the service or at the end of the Saturday morning service. If parents choose to speak in the beginning, we recommend the theme be regarding the meaning of the "Tallit".  If parents choose to speak at the end of the service, we recommend the theme be “a blessing for the next steps on the child’s Jewish journey.”  Speeches must be submitted to the rabbis for approval three weeks in advance and must be no longer than 500 words combined between both parents


We know there is a great deal of concern around the concept of having two students share a morning service. We will work with you every step of the way to make sure that everything works smoothly.  We will also be available to assist the families to consider any joint plans to sponsor the Oneg, Kiddush and other reception options at the Synagogue.


During the six months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah the student should research and write a rough draft of his/her Haftarah/Torah speech. The rough draft should be brought to the “six week” meeting with the rabbi. The student is required to read and research commentaries on the appropriate section for his/her speech – either the Torah or the Haftarah - they are different.  If you have any questions about which portion the student will be reading, please contact us.

The speech should be between three and four minutes in length and contain three main sections:

  1. The history and background of the piece. (Who wrote it, when, what does it say?)
  2. What message in the parasha can be related to life in today’s society?
  3. How does it connect to you and your life?

As this is a Dvar Torah, a "Torah Talk," it is appropriate to focus only on these three sections.  "Thank You’s” may be written out in the pamphlets or expressed orally during the reception.


All deliveries must be made to the Synagogue before 2:00pm on Friday.  Food to be consumed on the premises must be Kosher and obtained from sources approved by the rabbis.

Please remind your guests that photography, writing, and the use of audio or video recorder, are not permitted in the Synagogue or on the Synagogue grounds on Shabbat.  Also, please ask your guests to put all pagers or cellular phones on silent mode before entering the sanctuary.

Only soft candies are permitted to be used to “pour” at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah because of the possibility of personal injury.  They must be soft, kosher and approved by the rabbis.


Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah focuses on the reading of the Torah.  Our Torah is embedded in values and our hope is that you will put these values into action.  To this end, each child is expected to participate in a Mitzvah Project and Ma’aser as part of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah journey. 

Mitzvah Project - A key component of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process is the Mitzvah Project.  This program is designed to instill in our students a responsibility to fix and improve the world around us.  The project enables the Bar/Mat Mitzvah student to go beyond simply reading about the values and commandments inscribed in the Torah and put them into practice.

At Beth Am, students can choose one of two paths for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah project – a monthly Mitzvah Project or a year-long Mitzvah Project.

For students who choose the monthly Mitzvah Project, the rabbi will select a different mitzvah each month and provide different ways to express that mitzvah.  The Bar/Bat Mitzvah chooses one way to express the mitzvah for each project and completes it by the next monthly Tafrit TNT family education class.  The advantages of this option are twofold – it exposes students to a variety of mitzvoth and this program provides a structured format for the student.

The year-long Mitzvah Project is an alternative to the monthly Mitzvah Project.  The student may instead complete a single Mitzvah Project over the course of the year.  The Bar/Bat Mitzvah selects and designs the project and submits to Rabbi Earne for approval.  Rabbi Earne will assess the project according to requirements and criteria listed on our website - click here.

Ma’aser - In addition to a Mitzvah Project, all students must participate in Ma’aser.  Ma’aser comes from the number 10 and is a biblical law that commands all farmers to give 10% of their produce to the poor.  All B’nai Mtizvah students, as part of their journey of giving tzedakah, are expected to give 10% of what they receive for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to a charity of their choice.  This will be discussed during the meetings with the rabbis.

Food Baskets - On the day of your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah all students are expected to decorate the bimah with food baskets to the Jewish Family Service food pantry.  The guidelines for these food baskets are given at the six month family meeting with the rabbi.  Please note:  One cannot decorate the bimah with flowers in the place of food baskets as this takes away from the mitzvah.  


There is no “right” way to approach the manner of celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The type and amount of activities and food which are provided to guests are the choice of each family. We just ask that the celebration reflect the occasion—that the luncheon/dinner/party honors your 13 year old son/daughter who has just participated in a sacred religious ceremony. 

Friday Night Oneg - Participate in and sponsor the Oneg following Friday night services.

Saturday Kiddush - Sponsor the Kiddush luncheon following Saturday morning services. Please remember your child is celebrating his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a part of the community. If you choose to host a luncheon at the Synagogue directly following services, the community must be invited to participate.  Please include 75 – 100 “regular” congregants. Please speak to the Executive Director, Gilad Hoffman for more information.

Saturday S’eudat Shlisheet - If you are having a Minha/Maariv service you will need to decide what ‘type’ of S’eudat Shlisheet, third meal, you wish to have between the Minha (afternoon) service and Maariv (evening). In our congregation this third meal can be as simple as cookies, cake and drinks; a time to serve hors d’oeuvres; or a sit down meal for your guests. Please speak to the Executive Director, Gilad Hoffman for more information.

L'Chayim!” Bottle - At the beginning of each meal, both men and women over 21 years of age are encouraged to gather for a small toast to celebrate life.  We suggest families purchase a bottle of approved alcohol to be shared on the day of the simha.


In addition to your Shabbat service Shabbat Shalom sheet, some families create a booklet with information to help guests understand the service.  We have sample booklets in the office for reference.  


Your reception can be held Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), Sunday afternoon or evening, or several other times. Remember, a successful party begins by incorporating Judaism. If your simha is on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening) we strongly encourage beginning with Havdalah, and it would therefore, begin after Shabbat concludes.  As education is an essential part of the Bar/Bar Mitzvah experience, parties should not be planned during JLC or Sabra hours.   

The rabbis will regretfully decline your kind invitation to any party that is held outside the Synagogue on Shabbat. They will make every effort to attend parties held on Saturday evening (arrival will be after Shabbat) or Sunday, provided the food served meets kosher dietary requirements.

When choosing outfits for your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, as well as for those that will attend, please keep in mind that this is a celebration of their coming of age in Judaism and that their clothing should be in good taste with a reasonable amount of modesty.


All food served at Congregation Beth Am must be kosher and from a caterer on our approved caterers list. 

If you have a luncheon/dinner party at home, in a restaurant, or any place other than the Synagogue, we, of course, cannot insist that it be kosher. However, we respectfully urge you to consider having a kosher meal. If you have any questions regarding Kashrut at your simha please contact us. 


The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is an important milestone for the entire family.  Recognizing the institution and community that plays a significant role in helping you reach this important ceremony illustrates a valuable lesson in community support.  A couple suggestions are: 

  1. Purchase a prayer book in honor of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
  2. Purchase a leaf on the Tree of Life Plaque located in the sanctuary.  Contact Susan Mualim for more information.


A successful Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a positive experience that leads to continued Jewish involvement in Beth Am and in the larger Jewish community.  You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Pick up DVD of service
  2. Continue your involvement in USY at Beth Am.
  3. Sign-up for Yad Squad
  4. Continue your involvement with our Hebrew High Program and Sabra.
  5. Sign-up to be a Madrikh or Teacher's Assistant at our JLC.


Please remember that your child as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is leading services as a celebration of their entering into the adult Jewish community. We know that the details of planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah can sometimes feel overwhelming but hope that you will keep in mind the intent of the simha. If you have questions or concerns of any kind please feel free to bring them to our attention.  Rabbi Earne can be reached at 858-481-8454 or


Below is a list of names of families who have gone through the B’nai Mitzvah experience at Beth Am.  They have volunteered their emails so that you can contact them if you have any questions about the B’nai Mitzvah process.  

Kelly Pearl, 

Teri Naftalin,

Debbie Sigal,

Mazal Tov!

Mon, June 1 2020 9 Sivan 5780