1. Students must have attended and successfully completed religious school for a minimum of four years and must be attending the Temple’s Religious School or the Martin J. Gottlieb Solomon Schechter Day School during the year of Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
2. To be eligible to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the student must satisfactorily meet the Temple’s standards of Hebrew learning. In order to meet these standards, students begin Hebrew instruction no later than the 3rd grade. A program of Reading Readiness is introduced to our 2nd grade TIR class to help our students reach Temple’s standard of Hebrew skill.
3. Students are expected to attend their classmates’ Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies regardless of invitation to the celebration. Experience has shown the more services a student attends the more comfortable he/she will feel leading the service. Furthermore, Jewish worship needs to be experienced, not just taught. We encourage parents to join their children at these Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies to set a positive example and make Shabbat worship a family experience. Attendance at a minimum of one Shabbat evening service per month is also expected.
4. A commitment to continue religious education is an expectation for all our children becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
5. Families are expected to select and participate in a social action project for a minimum of 13 hours of community service during the course of the year.
6. Practice is the key to Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation. Our experience has shown that the most successful students are those who practice a little bit (defined as at least 10-15 minutes) every day rather than “cramming” immediately before their lessons.
7. Families are encouraged to light the Sabbath candles, to make Kiddush and recite Hamotzi in their homes on Friday night. We are happy to provide a sample home ceremony for the observance of Shabbat. We encourage you to incorporate these blessings on the Friday night of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and at any luncheon or other meal after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service.
8. Temple requirements, both educational and financial are expected to be met in order to progress with the celebration of your family’s simcha as scheduled.
9. The Clergy, in cooperation with the Educational Staff, have the authority to implement the above requirements with flexibility, designing a program to meet the individual student’s needs.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony
At Temple, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah symbolizes, in Jewish terms, the opportunity for the student to participate fully in the life of the congregation. This is celebrated by participation in the Friday evening and Shabbat morning services.
Just as each student is an individual of varying abilities and talents, each ceremony is customized to ensure that each student’s unique gifts are engaged. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah student’s participation in the worship service may vary from reciting a few blessings to conducting virtually the entire service. The Clergy and Educational Staff will determine this during the private tutorials. We will prepare and worship from The Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays: A Gender Sensitive Prayer Book (gray book). On occasion, the New Union Prayer Book is used for Festival morning services.
Friday Evening Service
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his/her family lead the congregation in the lighting of the Shabbat candles and the Kiddush. Please be aware that during the Friday evening worship service there may be other simchas being celebrated, special events and, creative worship experiences.
Shabbat Morning Service
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah leads the congregation in a portion of the morning worship. This may include the liturgy, Torah and Haftarah selections. The student also composes and delivers a D’var Torah (words about the Torah), teaching the congregation the meaning of his/her Torah portion.
There are many opportunities within the Shabbat morning service for family members and friends to participate. We call these honors.
• Presentation of Tallit: Families may choose to give their child a tallit (prayer shawl) at the opening of the Shabbat morning service. You may purchase a tallit or you may choose to honor a deceased relative by giving the child the tallit that belonged to that loved one. If the child is given a tallit during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, the child is expected to wear it when attending future Shabbat morning services. This is not a gift “just for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.” As such, if tallit wearing is part of your family observance, we welcome the tallit presenters to wear their own tallitot.
• Generational passing of the Torah Scroll
• Aliyot: Being called to the Torah to pronounce the blessing before and after a portion of Torah is read is known as an aliyah (pl. aliyot). Parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, may be honored with an aliyah to the Torah. Aliyah means “to go up.” At Temple, families may have up to three aliyot. Any number less or more than three is at the discretion of the Clergy. Families provide the complete Hebrew name of each person to be honored. Aliyot may be large groups spanning several generations. Here at Temple, we welcome the participation of non-Jewish family members from inter-faith families in large group aliyot containing Jewish family members.
• Parent’s Prayer: The parents’ prayer for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah follows the Haftarah. A prayer option is found on page 163 of Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays. Some families have chosen to write their own prayer. The prayer should be personal, should contain Jewish content, and should be delivered in the form of a prayer (“We pray that you will.…”). Please be aware of the length of our Shabbat morning worship and keep your remarks within a reasonable length of time. The Clergy are happy to work with parents to prepare this prayer.
• Hagbah/Hagba’ah (Torah Holder): A family member or friend lifts the Torah and holds it while seated during the chanting of the Haftarah.
• G’li’lah/Golelet (dresser): Following the Torah reading, a family member or friend replaces the Torah mantle (colorful covering), breastplate, yad (pointer) and ornamentation on the Torah scroll. The honoree does not sit on the pulpit, but comes up to participate in this specific honor. This is a great honor for a younger family member or friend but can be anyone whom you wish to honor.
• Worship Pamphlet: The family may chose to prepare a worship pamphlet explaining the ceremony and honors to their guests. Examples are available in the Temple office. If the family chooses to prepare worship pamphlet, information regarding Shabbat morning worship will be provided to you and must be included. Worship pamphlets must be proofed by the Clergy for content no later than two weeks prior to the ceremony.
If you have a large number of family members on whom to bestow honors, there are several other options that can be considered. Please discuss these with the Clergy.
GEMILUT CHASADIM: Acts of Loving Kindness
On Shabbat morning, we read Eilu devarim:
“These are duties whose worth cannot be measured: Honoring one’s father and mother, acts of love and kindness, diligent pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, celebration with bride and groom, consoling the bereaved, praying with sincerity, and making peace where there is strife, and the study of Torah leads to them all.”
We encourage each Bar/Bat Mitzvah family to select that issue that is most meaningful to them. There are many local, national and international organizations you can support with your volunteer efforts. Each family is expected to complete a minimum of 13 hours of community service. A service record is provided at the end of this guide. Our Clergy and Education Staff are available to discuss your service project options.
The Children of the Holocaust
The Children of the Holocaust Program was established to link Bar/Bat Mitzvah children with one of the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered by the Nazis before being able to fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. You can dedicate your Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony to the memory of this child, thereby symbolizing the importance of remembering the past while educating for the future. You will receive a certificate commemorating your participation in the program.
To participate, contact the Jewish Community Foundation of Northeast Florida via email or call (904) 394-0720.
The B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program is presented by the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville and the Gottlieb Family Philanthropic Fund. As a child becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, he or she begins to assume new responsibilities as a member of the Jewish community. One of those additional responsibilities is tzedakah (charity) or caring for the needy in the community. B’nai Tzedek is one opportunity to teach children about tzedakah.
Children living in Northeast Florida are invited to establish a B’nai Tzedek Fund in their own name with a minimum contribution of $125 to the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida. Checks should be made payable to “(Child’s Name) B’nai Tzedek Fund.” Your contribution will be matched by contributions of $125 from the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville and $250 from the Gottlieb Family Philanthropic Fund for a total starting balance of $500. We encourage you and your child to add additional monies to the Fund at any time and in any amount and to ask friends and loved ones to contribute to the Fund to commemorate special occasions.
Every year for 20 years, all B’nai Tzedek participants are able to recommend that a contribution be made to any Jewish charitable 501(c)(3) organization of their choice in the Northeast Florida area. The amount of the contribution will be 5% of the fund balance as of the anniversary of the Fund (minimum $25). The Fund will be professionally invested and managed with the Jewish Foundation’s other funds. There is a 1% annual administrative fee.
After 20 years, the Fund will be converted to a permanent Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Northeast Florida in the name of the original B’nai Tzedek donor. It must meet the minimum balance required by the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida and will be regulated by the then current bylaws of the Jewish Foundation. All questions and comments should be directed to the Executive Director via email or by phone at (904) 394-0720.
The Federation Joan Levin Gift of Israel Program
The Gift of Israel is a self-selective program for children at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Launched in the fall of 1994 the program has helped over 125 teens experience Israel. The Joan Levin Gift of Israel program is designed to help subsidize organized trips to Israel for teens aged 16-22 years old. The program is funded by the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville annual campaign.
Enrollment is automatic and teens receive a voucher from Federation for the program. The voucher has a six-year window to be redeemed for a matching fund to travel to Israel on a recognized program or Federation mission. The voucher is worth up to $700. The participants contact Federation about the use of the Gift of Israel voucher. Payment is made directly to the organization running the program, unless the trip has been paid in full and the family can show a statement from the program proving that there is no balance.
Students who go to college outside of Jacksonville are still able to use their voucher as long as their family remains in Jacksonville. We ask all teens returning from a trip to write an article for the Jacksonville Jewish News, talk with a youth group or board of directors, and/or speak at a synagogue about the program. Please contact the Jacksonville Jewish Federation at (904) 448-5000 for further information.