It is understood that every child has unique abilities. The Rabbis and Cantor will tailor each student’s part in the worship service accordingly. Generally, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will:
The season before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, your child will be part of a special 13-week class taught by the Cantor. The class is offered during Kitah Zayin (7th grade) and meets on Monday evenings (during regular Religious School) and Thursday afternoons, 4:00‑4:30 p.m. (When seventh-graders are not in the Cantor’s class, they attend Religious School on Monday evenings, but do not attend on Thursday afternoons.) Children celebrating their Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the spring of 7th grade begin the class the previous fall. Children celebrating in the fall of 8th grade begin the previous spring. Special arrangements are made for those children whose Bar/Bat Mitzvah takes place in the fall of 7th grade.
In the Cantor’s class, your child will learn to chant all blessings surrounding the Torah and Haftarah portions, as well as selected passages from the prayer book. Learning this material is aided by the use of a professionally produced audio download, which your child will receive when s/he begins preparation with the Cantor. The audio file will be used in conjunction with the prayer book your child will also receive.
During the class, students will practice and recite these prayers with and in front of their peers. The material from the Cantor’s class must be mastered before private instruction begins. If the Cantor determines that a student is having difficulty learning the prescribed materials, the student may be asked to supplement their preparation by studying in the Religious School’s Tutoring Center.
Regular attendance in both the Cantor’s class and Religious School classes are prerequisites for a student to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. You can find the downloads for the prayers a bar/bat mitzvah needs to learn here.
Individual preparation begins four to six months before your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Your child will spend a half‑hour each week in one‑on‑one tutoring at B’nai Israel. During this time, your child will learn to chant Torah and Haftarah.
The Torah has no vowels or cantillation signs (the ancient form of musical notation that indicates the tune for each word). During these sessions, the student will learn the traditional melodies associated with their Torah and Haftarah portions and will become comfortable chanting Torah directly from the ancient scroll.
Individual preparation also includes discussion of the week’s portion. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah student will meet with one of the Rabbis or the Director of Education for study and reflection on their Torah portion. The student will prepare a D’var Torah (personal interpretation), which they will present at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
The Parents’ Role
We feel strongly that the experience for the students becomes most positive when parents also are involved and supportive. At the conclusion of the Cantor’s Class, parents will be asked to join their children to learn about the history of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the Shabbat morning service and the student’s specific Torah portion. In addition, families will be invited and encouraged to attend two additional family gatherings, one on a Saturday afternoon and another on a Sunday morning. These programs are meant to provide enrichment and an opportunity for families to share experiences.
The parent also serves an important role in helping the child prepare at home. During the days between visits with the Cantor/tutor, your child will be expected to study the portion at least 30 minutes each evening. The amount of time needed will vary with each child. We all know, however, that daily study is crucial. Learning cannot be achieved by “cramming” once or twice a week, or by studying furiously just prior to meeting with the Cantor/tutor.
Meaning of Mitzvot
Our Mitzvot Program is a wonderful, optional opportunity offered at Congregation B’nai Israel. This program involves the Bar/Bat Mitzvah selecting mitzvot from the categories of Religious Observance, Community Service and Study. Working with their peers, creating mitzvot and building community ties, the student dedicates him/herself to fulfilling these mitzvot before their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
A Mitzvot Coordinator assists in developing an individualized program, and provides guidance throughout the program. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah receives a Certificate of Accomplishment at his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah for the successful completion of the project.
The Mitzvot Proram is intended to serve as a meaningful extension of one’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah process, to focus on the significance of the word Mitzvah, and to plant within a child seeds that flourish into a lifetime commitment toward living Jewishly.