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B'nai Mitzvah Handbook

Why Bar- or Bat Mitzvah?
            Becoming a bar- or bat mitzvah is not a single event on just one day.  It is a process, a moving into, through and beyond adolescence.  Our program is a four-year trajectory of encountering, exploring and receiving the foundational elements of our heritage and wisdom tradition.  It is an opportunity to enrich, deepen and shape Jewish identity and Jewish life for yourself and your child.
            This way of coming-of-age, Jewishly, is not a culmination of learning and training; it’s a beginning!  Being Jewish is an on-going, life-long relationship with Judaism and Jewish People hood.  This is the beginning of a conversation about life, meaning, purpose, value, and becoming fully human with Jewish resources and pathways.
            Individual and family life-cycle events are times when important aspects of identity and status are activated and engaged.  For an emerging adult, this is a time to gain a sense of self, to begin an exploration of spirituality, to wake up to moral responsibility, and to acquire skills and foundational knowledge for involvement in Jewish community.  Our program opens the door to becoming an informed Jew and “doing Jewish” as values are translated into action in the world.
            For a family, this process is a way to deepen bonds with our heritage and prior generations, with contemporary Jewry, and with the visions, aspirations and purposes of Judaism.  For the synagogue community, this is the time to clarify and transmit our cultural values, views, teachings and understandings.
            Far from being a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all experience (a turn-key operation provided for you), the KHL B’nai Mitzvah Program strives to engage each family with a personal touch as each family explores how to connect with Judaism in enjoyable and meaningful ways.  Each bar/bat mitzvah service is unique, reflecting the young person and family as they grow and develop and become.
            Our program is built on the Four Pillars of Judaism (as defined by Rabbi Sid Schwarz): Chochmah/Wisdom, Tzedek/Justice, Kehillah/Community, and Kedushah/Holiness.  Everything we do will connect with one or more of these pillars, and be viewed through such lenses.  We want to equip our young people and their families with ways of understanding their Judaism and connection to the world that will lead them into a vibrant, Jewish path through their teenage years and on into adult life.
Program Components
Fifth/Sixth Grade:  Our Beit Lev class for 5th and 6th graders builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier grades.  Its component parts are: History of the Jewish People and traditions; a creative approach to specific Prayers; Hebrew language proficiency; and, finally, “Applied Judaism,” an exploration of how big ideas and values can be lived in the real world of life and decision making. To register for the 5th or 6th Beit Lev classes click here 
Seventh Grade (or Eighth?):  This is the year during which many of our students will actually participate in a Shabbat morning (or afternoon) service as an “adult” member of the community.  Our 7th-grade class will meet one Sunday per month and is an opportunity to focus on core aspects of Judaism with Rabbi Geoff: to learn about and experience Shabbat and holy day services, dive into our respective Torah portions, work on our own commentaries and interpretations and teachings. 
            It is during this year that students work closely with Cantor George on the “synagogue skills” of prayers and Torah/haftarah reading, and with Rabbi Geoff on the dvar torah (the explication and interpretation).  And it is during this year, especially, that families are encouraged and expected to attend, and familiarize themselves with, services at Kol HaLev.
Middle School Family Program:  The group, for 5th-7th graders and their parents, meets five times through the school year.  It is the forum for exploring the different and changing dynamics of families-with-young-children to families-with-young-adults.  It includes a few parent-teen dialogues.  And it is here that we are able to focus on community engagement and social justice projects as a group.
            For our emerging adults in the 8th grade, there is the leadership of and activities devised by the Middle School group AS WELL AS mentoring to the families and children in earlier stages of the process.  With high school looming ahead, and driving and college on the not-too-distant horizon, we can begin to address this next stage, culminating with an induction into…
(In the works…)
The “Here We Are” High-School Teen Community:  There is so much to be done with — and by! — this age group: field trips, social justice activities, films, books, fun!  [Note: this is conceived as a community wide Youth Group, not exclusively KHL teens but a group that can include other friends from school and neighborhood and extended family.]   This is also conceived as an vehicle for arranging and organizing volunteer and mentoring activities as contributing members of the Jewish community.        
Communal Norms and Expectations
            Our “coming-of-age” ceremonies happen within the context of community.  It is the community that confers the status of “bar/bat mitzvah.”  So our families are expected to be members-in-good-standing in Kol HaLev, paying the dues and fees in accordance with whatever arrangements are made.  Our children are taking their place in the wider Jewish People, represented by this particular synagogue community.  
            Hebrew de-coding proficiency.  We can help, and there are many ways to acquire the “aleph-bet,” to be able to read (and sing) the Hebrew and know the key words or ideas.  That can be done any time up to the end of 6th grade and before we turn to the mastering of specific standards and norms we wish to uphold.  [We will test for proficiency at various points in the process.]  [NOTE: In some cases, Hebrew literacy may not be the best path into Judaism or Jewish literacy for a particular child, in which case accommodations are made.] 
            Components of Prayer Service.  We would like to see our emerging adults demonstrate a degree of synagogue skills and prayer literacy that includes, at least: the tallit blessing; the aliyah blessings before and after Torah; the third Torah reading of that day (minimum of three verses); a bit of haftarah (the excerpt from the Prophets), as well as the blessings before and after it; and the central prayer known as the Shema and V’ahavta.
            Family Support.  We would like to see an ethic of communal connection and responsibility, of mutual aid and support.  This can take the form of each family helping with the service for the bar/bat mitzvah before or after your own, including helping to set up, ushering and distributing prayer books.
            Aliyah Honor.  We would like to see the bar/bat mitzvah boy or girl honored with an aliyah at the next service, each emerging adult blazing the trail for the next one.
            Kiddush.  Each family is expected to provide a light kiddush (blessings over wine and bread, and light refreshments or lunch) for the community following services. 
            D’var Torah.  Each boy or girl is expected to deliver a commentary on the Torah portion of that week, a teaching or explanation or discussion of a question raised by the text.
            Tzedakah.  Each family is encouraged to share the joy and good fortune of that day by making an additional gift to the synagogue community.  Part of our understanding of “community” entails the encouragement of a “culture of giving,” a “culture of honoring (“in-the-name-of” or “on-the-occasion-of”), as the congregational community that supports each of us needs our support and appreciation. 
Timeline & Logistics
By the end of 5th grade:
  • Hebrew reading and decoding assessment, and plan made for mastering the “aleph bet.”
  • Meet with Rabbi Geoff and schedule the bar/bat mitzvah date.
By the end of 6th grade:
  • Begin meetings with Cantor George for tutoring of specific prayers and Torah and haftarah readings.
In 7th grade:
  • Monthly class with Rabbi Geoff: 
    Our 2019-2020 7th-grade class will meet one Sunday 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on the following dates:
    September 15, October 13, November 10, December 8, January 12, February 9, March 8, April 26, May 10 and June 14.
  • Attendance at Friday night and Saturday morning services as well as some reflection and journaling.  With such familiarity and comfort, the actual bar/bat mitzvah service will feel more like participation than performance.
Space Usage
            We expect to accommodate all services at our present home, hosted by CHC.  There are several venues for a service, depending on the size of the gathering.  Once the date is established and confirmed by our Administrator, if you wish, rooms at CHC for any Kiddush or reception will also be reserved and confirmed. See below for CHC room rental fees.
Costs and Fees
            “Members in good standing” means that all agreed-upon annual dues are paid up or in process.  In addition, there is a 7th-grade tuition fee of $600 for first child/$850 for two or more children for the meetings and classes with the Rabbi and the Cantor.
            If you wish to use the CHC parish hall for Kiddush or a reception, there is a fee of $200 for this rental. There is also a Sexton fee of $75, paid directly to the Sexton, for set-up and break-down of tables and chairs. Of course, the catering of a luncheon or reception is the responsibility of the family.
To view this handbook as a printable pdf file click here.
Fri, July 19 2019 16 Tammuz 5779