Becoming a B’Mitzvah is one of the most significant events in a child’s Jewish upbringing. It celebrates, at age 13, the child’s readiness to take on the blessings and responsibilities of a Jewish adult. In some cases, a person may become a B’Mitzvah as an adult.
4th Grade Year
Parents can expect to receive a Date Selection Letter in the mail during the fall of their student’s 4th grade year. (Depending on birthdays, there is a possibility your family won’t receive this letter until the 5th grade year or will receive it as early as the 3rd grade year.) This letter will direct you on how to submit your preferences for a B’Mitzvah service date.
If you join Shaare Emeth when your child is in 4th-7th grades, please contact Cantor Seth Warner to discuss setting up a B’Mitzvah date, 314-569-0010.
6th Grade Year
B’Mitzvah candidates usually begin their formal study path in preparation for becoming a B’Mitzvah during their 6th grade year. However, depending on birthdays, your student may be in 5th or 7th grade. In order to become B’Mitzvah at Congregation Shaare Emeth, each student must have been enrolled in and attended Shaare Emeth’s Religious School or an approved equivalent for at least four years. B’Mitzvah fees must also be paid, a pay plan in progress, or other financial arrangements made with Cantor Warner. Please call Cantor Warner if you need to discuss scholarships, 314-569-0010.
Congregation Shaare Emeth’s B’Mitzvah Program is built upon three pillars: Torah, Worship, and Acts of Loving Kindness. Our requirements for each B’Mitzvah student are based on fulfilling goals in each of these three areas. Each student will receive one-on-one study with the Cantor and another Hebrew teacher as well as work in small groups of peers to prepare for leading the service and chanting from the Torah and Haftarah. Students will work closely with one of the Rabbis to outline their interpretation of their Torah and Haftarah portions, write introductions for both, and outline and write their D’var Torah, a teaching on their Torah portion. Students will also work with our Director of Jewish Life and Learning on choosing, planning, and implementing a Project Chesed, a B’Mitzvah project.
The B’Mitzvah process and requirements are described in detail in the B’Mitzvah Family Guide.
Required Parent Meeting and B’Mitzvah Experience
The 6th grade study year begins with two to three required parent and student meetings, the first in the fall and the second in the winter (a third is held only if necessary). The 6th Grade Parent/Guardian B’Mitzvah Meeting explains the B’Mitzvah process. The B’Mitzvah Experience invites students and parents to participate in a unique service, listen to one-of-a-kind teachings by one or more clergy members, participate in special activities, and receive their Torah portion and B’Mitzvah Family Guide.
Setting Up Meetings and Beginning Lessons
Students will begin studying in preparation for their B’Mitzvah six to eight months before their scheduled date. The B’Mitzvah assistant will contact your family by email to set up the first appointment (for at least one parent or guardian and the student) and weekly lessons (student only). The assistant will also describe the process for all other appointments and give you the time of your Final Rehearsal, typically held the Tuesday before the B’Mitzvah date at 4 or 5 p.m.
B’Mitzvah Family Guide (Coming Soon!)
Check out Keshet’s “Celebrating the Age of Mitzvah: A Guide for All Genders“, for lots of useful tips on how to create an affirming, inclusive B’Mitzvah.
For many young Jews, a B‘Mitzvah is an exciting rite of passage when they become an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community. It is the first time the person is called up to the Torah. However, this ceremony can be extremely gendered (as evidenced by the name Bat/Bar Mitzvah: daughter/son of the commandment). While gendered language works for some people, it doesn’t work for all. The traditional language and practices associated with a Bar or Bat Mitzvah can exclude people who are non-binary, agender, gender fluid, gender-queer, or any gender identity that is not girl or boy. At Congregation Shaare Emeth, we welcome all students and have renamed our program to reflect the inclusion of all students. If your student prefers becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, that’s OK. Students should feel empowered to call their day whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
Additional Gender-Neutral Resources
Adult B’Mitzvah Program
Every year (or two), Shaare Emeth offers an adult B’Mitzvah class. During this year-long course, adult students learn Hebrew reading and chanting skills and explore Jewish thought and prayer. The class meets weekly and shares a B’Mitzvah ceremony in May or early June. The class is usually 5–15 students; some were raised as Jews but never had a B’Mitzvah and others have chosen Judaism as adults. The ability to read Hebrew is a prerequisite for participation in the Adult B’Mitzvah class, which can be fulfilled in our regular Adult Hebrew course. Please contact Cantor Warner, 314-569-0010, for additional information.