Enriching Community through B’nai Mitzvah

By Rabbi Sharon Litwin

This past Sunday in BBRS, our Kitah Vav (6th grade) students and parents (see pictures below) came together for a self-reflection workshop as they begin the process of becoming B’nai Mitzvah. For some of the families this is the first Bar/Bat Mitzvah in their family and for others the 2nd or 3rd. Each family viewed the process a little differently.

We started by reviewing important “terms” that everyone should feel like they know before the process begins. They included, Torah, Haftarah, D’var Torah, Aliya, Hagbaah (raising the Torah), Gelila (Dressing the Torah) and even Tichon (Hebrew High School) and Madrichim (Counselors). We defined each word in a matching game and many of the students raised their hands when I asked them if they were planning to continue their connection to BBRS in Tichon and as Madrichim. It is so important that we understand that the education that our students get at BBRS up through Kitah Zayin (7th grade) is only foundation for helping them to grow into connected and interested Jewish adults.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not the culmination, but the jumping off point. Now they have a learner’s permit… now the real work begins. They still need teachers and parents, and practice and conversation, before they can get their driver’s license and go out on their own as Jews.

Our conversation shifted, as parents and children reflected together on what the expectations would be for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. What they hoped their sessions of tutoring would be like, how they might practice at home, who would participate in their service, what was important to their family about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, and who was it important to share with in the celebration of this milestone?

Every family shared from their discussion and then we turned to an important conversation about the communal nature of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah at CBI. Parents were asked, who do you think should be invited to your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Should the whole class be included? We heard from parents who were worried about an instance of “mean” or “bullying” amongst the children and didn’t want a guest to disrupt the joy of the day. We heard from parents and students about how important it is that the children get to know each other and to celebrate together as they have all been in school together at BBRS for many years. Some parents wanted to say definitively that every child in the class ought to be invited and some did not. The conversation was open, it was positive and it was enriching to the notion of our synagogue being a community and a place where families are connected and caring for one another.

I was really impressed with the level of the respect for the process and the discussion that took place and I look forward to the ongoing dialogue and to helping to foster more conversations about the meaning of community in the lives of our BBRS families.