B’nai Mitzvah FAQ

Requirements

What are the requirements to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Sinai Temple?

  • The child, immediately prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, must complete at least five (5) consecutive years of study in our Sinai Temple Religious School, or be a student at Sinai Akiba Academy of Sinai Temple enrolled by the 5th grade. Additionally, the family must be a member of Sinai Temple, in good standing, and its account must be current, including all membership fees, pledges, tuition, and any other financial obligations. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah date assignment may not be considered or discussed until these financial obligations are met.
  • If the Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate does not meet the requirements in the paragraph above, a B’nai Mitzvah Eligibility Request Form (“Eligibility Form”) needs to be completed by the child’s parents.

Does my child have to attend Religious School while they are in the B’nai Mitzvah program?

  • If your child is not enrolled in Sinai Akiba Academy, they must be enrolled in our Sinai Temple Religious School through the academic year of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. If your child will be in 8th grade for the academic year, they will be required to enroll in our Nevonim program.

Why can’t my daughter have her Bat Mitzvah before her 13th Hebrew birthday?

  • Traditionally there were many distinctions between men and women in Judaism. Only men studied; only the forefathers, not the foremothers, were mentioned in the prayers; only men could wear tallit and tefillin; only men could be Rabbis and Cantors. Because women took on fewer obligations and had fewer privileges, an earlier date for the Bat Mitzvah made sense, especially because there was never a ceremony to mark a Bat Mitzvah.  Only boys marked the occasion, and girls never did.
  • Today when we treat women and men the same in terms of religious privileges, we believe that taking on more obligations and promoting equality demands that we be equal in obligation and privilege. We ask the same of both, and so we ask them to fulfill their obligations at the same time, equalizing the age for both boys and girls. Our congregation is called an Egalitarian Congregation for these reasons.

Date Selection Process

How many Bar/Bat Mitzvah are assigned to a service in each venue?

  • Ziegler Sanctuary: up to two B’nai Mitzvah families may be assigned to each service
  • Torah in the Round: only one B’nai Mitzvah family is assigned to each service
  • Family Minyan: only one B’nai Mitzvah family is assigned to each service

B’nai Mitzvah Mentoring

Can we request a specific mentor for our child’s mentoring?

  • Please contact the B’nai Mitzvah coordinator to request a mentor. Please note that all of our B’nai Mitzvah students must work with one of our mentors on staff and not an outside mentor.

How long is each mentoring session?

  • 20 minutes each week. We ask families to keep their “regular” appointments to avoid confusion.

What is Cybermitzvah?

  • Cybermitzvah is our B’nai Mitzvah website containing all of the resources you and your family will need to navigate the B’nai Mitzvah process. Our mentoring staff will regularly direct our B’nai Mitzvah students to various pages on Cybermitzvah to learn prayers / trope / Torah and Haftarah portions.

What is Mitzvah Tools?

  • MitzvahTools is a website used by the B’nai Mitzvah team to keep track of weekly assignments. You will be receiving a weekly email from Mitzvah Tools outlining the mentor’s homework assignment for the B’nai Mitzvah.

What is WebParasha?

  • WebParasha is a powerful program that organizes and assigns Torah and Haftarah readers for each of our Shabbat venues: Ziegler Sanctuary, Torah in the Round, and Family minyan. We will assign a WebParasha account to our B’nai Mitzvah who sign up to read extra Torah portions during their service. We will also help you and your family members create an account so you can sign up for readings as well.
  • When anyone is signed up for a reading, they will automatically receive an email through WebParasha with two links; one link will be a pdf of the text Tikkun style, and the other link will be an mp3 audio file to practice with.

When will my child begin working on the D’var Torah (Bar Mitzvah speech)?

  • We usually begin scheduling lessons with Cantor Keith Miller (or officiating rabbi) three months before the B’nai Mitzvah date.

My child loves to study Hebrew and wants to learn more than average. How else can he/she participate in the service?

  • Wonderful! We always encourage our students to do more than the minimum required prayers and readings. Once the standard material is learned, they can learn extra Torah readings, lead additional parts of the service, and or sing a special song or prayer. Please discuss these options with your mentor.

My child is going to summer camp for two months but will study at camp. Can we make this work?

  • We regularly work with students who will be away at camp during the summer. The key to success is regular continuous study. We will be happy to provide your child with recordings and resources to ensure they can continue practicing while away at summer camp.

Do I contact the Temple to schedule the various appointments my child will be having with the Rabbis, Cantor, and private instructors?

  • We will contact you to schedule your child’s various appointments. However, infrequently an oversight may occur. If you think your child is overdue for an appointment based on the information contained in the section entitled the “Parent’s Ultimate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Checklist”, please contact the appropriate office i.e. Rabbi, Cantor or private mentor, immediately.

B’nai Mitzvah Service

Do we have to participate in the Thursday morning (7:30am) service? What about the Friday night (5:45pm) service?

  • Participation in both of these services is optional but strongly encouraged to help make the Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend even more special. Please inform your mentor of your decision to participate in these services.

Can my child’s siblings participate in the service? Can I? Can my relatives participate?

  • Yes! If the B’nai Mitzvah’s siblings are over 13, they can have an Aliyah, read from the Torah, or sing a special song / prayer. If they are under 13, they may sing a special song / prayer. We also encourage you and your family to sign up for Torah readings to help make the celebration even more special. Additional participation may be available in your specific venue as well.

We plan to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration in Israel the summer prior to my child’s service. Will you help prepare him/her for this service as well?

  • We are happy to help your child prepare for this special event, but the focus needs to be on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation for the Sinai Temple service. If there is time to work on the Israel service preparation without interfering with the B’nai Mitzvah curriculum, we are happy to help.

What if a family member or my spouse is not Jewish, may they participate in the service?

  • All family members or friends receiving an honor in our services must be Jewish and over the age of 13. If one of the child’s parents is not Jewish, they may stand next to their child at the bima without saying the Torah blessings, to be present for this special moment.

How do we obtain a video recording of our service?

  • All of our services in the Ziegler sanctuary are professionally recorded. Please contact the Cantor’s office to inquire how to receive a copy of the service. For other venues, please contact the Cantor’s office for further information.

May we have a photographer at our service?

  • To respect the sanctity of Shabbat, we do not allow photographs of any kind to be taken during our Shabbat services.

Why can’t we have additional honors during our child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

  • We wish we could give more honors to all of our families. We are blessed with many life cycle events, which are celebrated by being called to the Torah. Unfortunately, we do not have enough honors available to fulfill the many requests we receive every week. The B’nai Mitzvah and their families receive most of the honors. Torah in the Round and the Family Minyan each have their own policy regarding honors for a Bat/Bat Mitzvah celebrated at their service.

General Questions

What is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee applied to and when is it due?

  • The fee is used to underwrite a portion of the expenses incurred by the synagogue in providing your child a private tutor, meeting with the Cantors and Rabbis and for materials. One third of the fee is due 60 days after the assignment of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. The balance is due one year prior to the Simcha. If the Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee is not received, the date is forfeited and individual mentoring will not begin.

Do I have to reserve my child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah party date?

  • If your child is enrolled in Sinai Akiba Academy, you will need to cooridinate your party date with Rabbi Feig and the Sinai Akiba parent coordinator.

My child is very nervous / sensitive / shy. How can I help to support him/her in this process?

  • Each of our children is unique and created in the image of God. The most important way we can support our children is to be present, encouraging, and supportive of this transformative process. Parental involvement is the key to success. Please discuss these concerns with your child’s mentor privately, so instruction may proceed with the least amount of stress or anxiety.

Is there an opportunity for me to learn alongside my child?

  • Yes! We encourage you to study the Torah portion alongside your child and to model Judaism as a tradition of constant learning. If you’d like more formal help, please contact Sinai Temple to inquire about our adult education program.

Does my child need to own Tefillin?

  • While it is not required, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a great time to purchase a set of Tefillin for your child. Hopefully they will be encouraged to wear it regularly following their B’nai Mitzvah.

Does my daughter need to wrap Tefillin?

  • While we encourage both boys and girls to participate in the Mitzvah of Tefillin, we will respect your family’s preference regarding your daughter wearing Tefillin. We do encourage your daughter to put on Tefillin for at least the Thursday morning prior to her Bat Mitzvah to experience this beautiful mitzvah.

Where do I buy a Tallit or Tefillin for my child?

  • You can purchase a Tallit, Tefillin and many other supplies at our Sisterhood Gift Shop at Sinai Temple. If you mention the purchase is for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Sinai Temple, you will receive a 10% discount!

What can I do to assist my child in preparing for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

  • Take an active role in the B’nai Mitzvah process. Attend an adult education class. Light candles on Friday night and recite the Kiddush. Attend Shabbat services with your family. Make sure your child is studying the assignments given by the private mentor. Attend private mentoring sessions periodically. Speak to the mentor. Study with your child. Encourage your child to chant their Torah, Haftarah, and Tefilot for you.

What opportunities are there for my child to participate post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

  • The clergy graciously gifts each Bar/Bat Mitzvah student with a one year free membership in our Sinai Temple Teen Center, in which we hope they will be very active. We encourage each child to continue attending services, continue studying Jewish texts, and to be actively involved in our Sinai Temple community. Additionally, we encourage them to join our Junior Cantors Program, to sign up to lead parts of our Shabbat services, and to participate in our High Holy Day services.