Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Bar/Bat Mitzvah Songs
For those of you preparing to participate in a service at BHS, here are all the blessings we normally recite in Hebrew, ready for you to practice. We’ve provided a pdf for you to read, as well as audio for listening.

What does it mean to become Bar or Bat Mitzvah?
Click here for full b’nai mitzvah guide and also download our recommended vendor list.  

Many families commemorate their b’nai mitzvah with a Simcha Leaf.
Simcha leaf form online | pdf

Literally Bar Mitzvah means “son of the commandment” and Bat Mitzvah means “daughter of the commandment.” Jewish law does not require children to follow the commandments, though they are encouraged to do so. At the age of thirteen children become obligated to fulfill the mitzvot. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is not an event, rather it is a change in status. While we may perceive thirteen to be in the midst of childhood, Jewish law allows B’nai Mitzvah (plural of Bar or Bat Mitzvah) to count in a minyan (the minimum number of people necessary for some religious practices), to form binding contracts and to serve as a witness in religious courts.

A young person becomes Bar or Bat Mitzvah at their birthday; no ceremony is needed to confer adulthood. The celebration of Bar Mitzvah (the first Bat Mitzvah did not occur until 1922) is fairly recent in Jewish history, dating back only five centuries. To show a community that a young man was now legally an adult, he would be called to recite the blessing before and after the reading of the Torah, a mitzvah and privilege reserved for adults. Over time, the ceremony was expanded to include the reading of the Haftarah (the additional reading from the Prophets chosen by the rabbis because it amplifies a theme found in the Torah reading or corresponds to the time of year) and often the leading of worship following the Torah service. Because certain Hebrew and liturgical skills were required for this, the connection between Bar Mitzvah and Jewish education arose.

Today it is the educational aspect, rather than reaching the age of majority, which is stressed. At the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue B’nai Mitzvah demonstrate their ability to lead services, read Torah, participate in Tikkun Olam and social action projects as well as teach the community.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah is not the endpoint of Jewish Education. We are all obligated to continue the study of Torah and the fulfillment of righteous deeds throughout our lives. B’nai Mitzvah celebrate their change in status and honor their new responsibility not only on the day of their ceremony but through ongoing commitments to our tradition and community.

The B’nai Mitzvah program at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue is very much student-driven. At the Friday evening service of your Shabbat, your family will be invited to light the Shabbat candles and your child will be invited to lead the congregation in the V’Ahavtah and in the evening Kiddush following the service. At the Saturday morning service, your child will be leading the congregation in prayer, teaching and finally reciting the Torah and Haftarah portions. This is no little feat, and your child will begin preparing for this long before you begin worrying about your celebration plans.

In our congregation, there are several requirements for all B’nai Mitzvah. The child must:
-Be at least 13 years old.
-Complete at least four full years of Jewish study including the study described in our booklet.
-Attend six Friday night and two Saturday morning services with a parent at BHS in the year prior to the ceremony.
-Finish their 7th Grade year of studies with good attendance.
-The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue reserves the right to postpone the ceremony if these requirements are not met.

Example Mitzvah Project
Sadie Kramer formed Team Sadie as part of the mitzvah project she undertook to prepare as a Bat Mitzvah at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. She and nine other seventh grade girls raised $7,000 for women’s cancer through the Revlon 5K, which went from Times Square to Central Park.


Bnai Mitzvah Family Education
In order to help our families enjoy the spiritual, intellectual, and developmental journey of the bar or bat mitzvah, we provide a variety of family education programs, in addition to training our students in their Religious School years and via one-on-one tutoring as their bnai mitzvah dates approach.

For Everyone
Embarking on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Journey: A Two-Part Mini-Class for Parents (& Grandparents) with Rabbi Hara Person
Maybe you went through it yourself as a child, or maybe this is your first experience with the studying and planning involved. But what is becoming a bar or bat mitzvah really about, on a deeper level? What does it really mean in Jewish tradition? What does it mean for us as parents? How can we help make this a meaningful time in the lives of our families, rather than just a cliché about coming of age, parties, and fountain pens? Let’s take this journey together and see what we can learn. 7 to 8:30 pm, two weekday evenings in January/February. Open to all; intended especially for parents of students in 6th or 7th grade.

For 6th Grde Families
6th Grade Welcome to the B’nai Mitzvah Journey with Rabbi Serge Lippe
An exploration of the history and spirituality of becoming a “Bar/Bat Mitzvah” from the earliest customs of the Bible and Talmud to our most recent customs at BHS. This hour helps us understand the larger concepts and ideas behind Jewish tradition’s “coming of age.” 7 to 8 pm, usually on a Wednesday in November.Strongly suggested and encouraged for all families with a 6th Grader at BHS.

6th Grade B’nai Mitzvah Family Meeting & Dinner with Rabbi Serge Lippe
Join us for pizza & salad as Rabbi Lippe, Cantor Bruce Ruben, and Executive Director Sue Gold introduce us to the stages of planning and instruction for our youngsters and ourselves as we prepare for their ceremonies and celebrations. 6 to 7:30 pm, usually on a Wednesday in January. Required of all 6th Grade families.

B’nai Mitzvah Family Program (Part I) with Rabbi Hara Person
BHS 6th Graders and their parents will examine the preparations, planning and ceremony marking their achieving their Jewish ‘majority.’ We will explore ways for families to make the ceremony a meaningful rite of passage for everyone involved: parents, student, siblings and Jewish and non-Jewish family and friends. You’ll leave with a deeper appreciation of the tradition and a sense of ownership and ability. Parents will present students with their very own Parasha (Torah portion) booklets in a ceremony to mark their formal Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation. 6 to 7:30 pm, usually on a Monday in May. Part II takes place in November of the 7th grade year. Required of all 6th Grade families.

For 7th Grade Families
7th Grade B’nai Mitzvah Seminar, with Rabbi Serge Lippe and Cantor Bruce Ruben

Join us for a special Shabbat morning service, with opportunities for interruption and explanations. Rabbi Lippe and Cantor Ruben will give all of the students and adults who attend a small participatory part (for students) or ‘honor’ (for adults). Younger/older siblings and grandparents are also welcome. We finish with lunch and blessings in our 2nd Floor Social Hall (set up as we do for B’nai Mitzvah celebrations). On a Shabbat morning in fall of the 7th grade year. Required of all 7th Grade families.

7th Grade B’nai Mitzvah Program (Part II) with Rabbi Hara Person
A follow-up to the 6th grade program (Part I). We will explore ways to make your celebration of becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah a more meaningful rite of passage for everyone involved. 6 to 7pm, on a Tuesday in November. Required of all 7th Grade families.