Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is an important milestone in the life of a Jewish teen. It marks the point at which a child begins to take on a level of adult responsibility for his or her own religious life. While our Youth Education programs at Temple Isaiah aim to foster a lifelong love and practice of Judaism, our programs from PreK–12 Grade, our 4th–6th Grade years particularly work to prepare our students for their special day.
Our clergy and staff work together to make things as easy as possible for our families, so they can enjoy this meaningful event:
- Our B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator, Lori Levitas, is here to help with all of the logistics, including scheduling meetings and tutoring sessions.
- Rabbi Axler meets with each family multiple times prior to the service to get to know the student, help with the D’var Torah, and rehearse on the bimah.
- Dalia Feldman has been our B’nai Mitzvah Tutor for multiple generations of Temple Isaiah students. She works patiently with each student for six months or more teaching them their Torah and Haftarah portions, in addition to making sure they are ready to lead the prayers learned in Religious School.
- Helen Winoker, Temple Administrator, is here to help families plan events at Temple Isaiah, from a kiddush to full luncheons and Saturday evening parties.
- Rabbi Plotkin advises the rest of the staff on student educational issues, provides additional logistical back up, and runs the 6th Grade B’nai Mitzvah Shabbaton, the first educational program in which students will participate that is geared specifically for B’nai Mitzvah preparation.
The B’nai Mitzvah Process at Temple Isaiah:
Because B’nai Mitzvah is such an important milestone, the process toward being recognized as a B’nai Mitzvah on the Temple Isaiah bimah is a process that stretches over several years:
- 3rd Grade: Families looking toward B’nai Mitzvah should join Temple Isaiah before the 3rd Grade year begins. Of course Temple Isaiah will accept students later in the process that come from another congregation or have moved to the area.
- 4th Grade: In the winter of the 4th Grade year, families will be asked to fill out a date request form and will be invited to a celebratory meeting to receive their dates, learn who your partner is,* and to hear more details about the process.
- 5th Grade: Sit back and relax, you have two more years! Just make sure to attend Religious School regularly.
- 6th Grade:
- In Late October/Early November, all 6th Grade families will be invited to a meeting to hear detailed information about the process, the obligations of B’nai Mitzvah families, and our obligations to you as well.
- Starting one year before your child’s date, he or she will need to come to services twice a month. These services can be Friday night or Shabbat morning services.
- Each family is required to serve as both Sanctuary Coordinator and Reading Coordinator during the year prior to the B’nai Mitzvah ceremony. The exact number of times will depend on the number of students in the class, the number of B’nai Mitzvah students in the class ahead, and other factors including how certain Jewish holidays fall based on the secular calendar.
- In January of the 6th Grade year, all students will attend an overnight Shabbaton at Temple Isaiah. At this Shabbaton the students will have a chance to lead portions of the Shabbat services, families will have dinner together, students will have social time, and students and parents will have an opportunity to begin to take a closer look at their individual Torah portion.
- No fewer than six months prior to the date, Lori will begin scheduling tutoring sessions with Dalia. Students in need of additional support may be approved to begin earlier.
- At the same time, families will begin a series of meetings with Rabbi Axler to discuss the meanings of the day and the Torah portion.
- 7th Grade (for some students, the items closest to the day of their B’nai Mitzvah of may occur in 8th Grade):
- For students who do not start tutoring until after September in the 7th Grade year, they will begin monthly Hebrew Enrichment and Review with Rabbi Plotkin.
- Attend the Gesher program for the full 7th Grade year.
- Two weeks prior to the date, begin a series of three rehearsals with Rabbi Axler.
- Friday night before, families should attend services allowing family members the honors of candle lighting, readings, and to give the student an opportunity to lead the Shabbat Kiddush.
- Day of: Enjoy!
- Regardless of date: Attend the Gesher (7th Grade) Trip to Washington D.C., featuring a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
- 8th Grade and beyond: Continue attending the Teen Education program at Temple Isaiah.
* Due to the large number of students at Temple Isaiah, most students are partnered with another on the day they become a B’nai Mitzvah. This partnering in no way reduces the honors reserved for families or the attention from the Temple Isaiah staff. Those initially assigned a single, may be partnered with someone later should additional students join the class. Singles are only guaranteed for students with special educational needs.
B’nai Mitzvah can be memorialized with a plaque on our Tree of Life. For more information about celebrating a B’nai Mitzvah, or commemorating your own on Temple Isaiah’s tree, you can download the form here.
Bar Mitzvah photos here and on the homepage courtesy of Evan Dahne at Maryland Photo Video.