Bat Mitzvah 101
What does the bat mitzvah celebrant do?
At 13, a young Jewish man or woman becomes obligated to observe the commandments of Judaism. “Bar/bat mitzvah” literally means “son/daughter of the commandments.” The celebration of a bar/bat mitzvah signifies that the young man or woman is beginning and will continue to function as an active and responsible Jew in the synagogue and in the wider Jewish community.
The bar/bat mitzvah child will participate in the Shabbat service in a variety of ways, depending on the congregation’s customs. The bar/bat mitzvah may do some or all of the following: lead prayers, read (often chanting) from the Torah and/or Haftarah, deliver a dvar Torah — a speech about the Torah portion read that day. Family members are usually honored by being called up to say a blessing over (or read from) the Torah, and the bar/bat mitzvah child’s parents often deliver a speech.
-JULIE WIENER AND RABBI DANIEL KOHN
What happens after the service?
Shabbat morning services are usually followed by a kiddush, or light meal, in the synagogue’s social hall or other space outside the sanctuary. The kiddush gets its name from the blessing over wine that is recited just before the meal. Often bar/bat mitzvah guests are invited to a separate party, either immediately after the service or that evening. (Traditional Jews will not have a party until after sundown, because they are not permitted to drive or play music on Shabbat.) Parties take place in a variety of venues, ranging from the synagogue’s social hall or ballroom to restaurants or large event halls. Most include a meal and dancing, during which the bar/bat mitzvah child is sometimes raised on a chair.
-JULIE WIENER AND RABBI DANIEL KOHN
What should I wear to the temple?
It's a pretty casual temple, but we are also celebrating Flora's milestone. Business formal as in a suit (optional), slacks and a tie, or a nice dress or a formal pantsuit works.
When should I arrive to the service?
She will be helping lead the entire service but she'll shine during the second half of the service. We'd love you to be there the entire service, but we also know it's long. There is a playground behind the temple you can sneak out if you have wiggly little ones, and don't stress if you arrive late.
How much should I participate in the bat mitzvah?
Kinda like church, when the congregation stands, stand if you are able, when the congregation sits, join them. There are prayer books in seats. Please participate as much as you feel comfortable, including singing and sounding out prayers (many are in English as it is a reform temple).
What's the deal with the hats and shawls?
The small round head covers are called kippahs (KEEP-ah) or yarmulkes and are most often worn by men. The temple will have them at the entrance, please feel comfortable putting one on. In our temple, some women wear them as well. The shawls are called tallit (tall-EET or TALL-is), and are only worn by Jews. Do not feel compelled to wear a tallit if you are not Jewish or do not feel comfortable.
While it is typical for guests to give money or a small present for the bat mitzvah, our family feels like your presence is our present. We will be setting up a donation link connected to Flora and Adele's tzedekah (charity) project to give in her honor if you are so inclined.
How do I congratulate the hosts?
In Jewish culture it's appropriate to congratulate the bat mitzvah and her family. The best way to say congratulations is by saying 'Mazel tov!' Want to take a up a notch and get your Hebrew on? Check out this little guide for phrases and pronouncation.