Policy for Celebrating Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Kol HaLev
(Download the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Checklist)
In Kol HaLev, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is a time to celebrate a young person's increased capacity to make Jewish choices and decisions as well as the joy and holiness of Shabbat. As we welcome each young person into adult status and responsibility within Kol HaLev and the larger Jewish community, we wish to further his or her identity as a Reconstructionist Jew.
These guidelines for Bar/Bat Mitzvah address:
- Membership Prerequisites and Financial Obligations
- The Educational Foundation for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
- The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Year
- The Services Celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
- The First Years Following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Membership Prerequisites and Financial Obligations
A young person's Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience within Kol HaLev is based on a foundation of participation. We want all our Bar/Bat Mitzvah and their families to feel that they are truly part of our community. Our program for Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation includes family education and community participation for three years ‐‐ the year before, the year of, and the year following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. For this reason, families are expected to join Kol HaLev at least two years prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and to remain members in good standing for at least one year following. Our Bar/Bat Mitzvah families have regarded this event as an important step on their Jewish journey within Kol HaLev, and not as the end of that journey. Exceptions to this membership rule require the approval of the Rabbi along with representatives of the Religious Practices, Membership, and Youth and Family Education committees.
Families are assessed a Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee of $250 payable to Kol HaLev for Bar/Bat Mitzvah study and preparation. An additional maintenance fee may be charged by the Ratner School for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Ratner requires this maintenance fee for the increased use of the building and the custodial staff beyond the normal commitment. The Ratner event fee is $115 per hour of EXTRA input versus normal setup and workload to Ratner staff. This can be minimized by cleaning up and setting up by yourself and with your cohort. Fees for use of additional areas of the building, beyond what Kol HaLev generally uses, such as the gym, must be negotiated directly with Ratner. Tips for custodians are not required, but are becoming customary; families have offered somewhere in the range of $50 ‐ $60 for each of 2 custodians, depending on the amount of extra work needed. This contributes to Kol HaLev as well; maintaining the good will of the custodians helps in continuing our good relationship with the Ratner School.
The Educational Foundation for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
A young person's Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience in Kol HaLev is based on a foundation of Jewish knowledge. Every candidate for Bar/Bat Mitzvah must satisfy certain requirements in order to fulfill the following three goals:
Goal 1: Being a part of the Kol HaLev community
Goal 2: Receiving a foundation in Judaic and Hebrew education
Goal 3: Participating in an activity that develops one’s Reconstructionist identity
To develop one’s sense of belonging in the Kol HaLev community (Goal 1), each Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate must participate in all of the activities below:
- Rabbi Steve’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Cohort; and
- a minimum of 6 Kol HaLev community events with his/her family in the two years prior to the ceremony; and
- a minimum of 12 Shabbat morning services per year with his/her family or Hagiga sessions per year in the two years prior to the ceremony.
In order to fulfill the foundation in Judaic and Hebrew education component (Goal 2), the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family must choose one of the following three options for formal Jewish education, to take place in the years immediately preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah:
- a minimum of four years in Hagiga (Kol HaLev’s educational program) attending 75% or more of the sessions per year in the years immediately preceding Bar/Bat Mitzvah accompanied by three years of Hebrew with one of the following or a combination of the Nesiya program, a congregational school or an approved tutors; or
- a minimum of three years at a congregational Hebrew program or the Ratner School’s Hebrew and Judaic elective track in the years immediately preceding Bar/Bat Mitzvah (beginning in either third or fourth grade); or
- a minimum of two years at either Agnon, Schechter, Fuchs‐Mizrachi, or a comparable Jewish day school, in the years immediately preceding becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
A third component includes participation in activities that develop and support a Reconstructionist Jewish identity (Goal 3). A young person ideally will: be able to actively participate in the Shabbat morning service of Kol HaLev; develop some understanding of the Reconstructionist approach to Judaism, specifically with regard to prayer, Torah and holidays; and understand how Judaism extends beyond the home and Kol HaLev into the larger Jewish community. To provide for this background, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate will need to choose one of the following options:
- a minimum of two years in Hagiga attending 75% or more of the sessions per year (can be concurrent with Judaic and Hebrew requirement above; i.e., a day school student or one enrolled in a congregational Hebrew program or Ratner’s Hebrew track would need only two years of Hagiga, while those who choose the Hagiga/Hebrew tutor option above to fulfill the expectation of Jewish learning would need the four years of Hagiga required above, two of which would also fulfill this requirement); or
- a minimum of two sessions at Camp JRF; or
- An independent study project. The Bar/Bat mitzvah student will engage in a year‐long independent study in Reconstructionist Judaism, ideally overseen and guided by a knowledgeable member of the Kol HaLev community. As part of this study, the student will complete a project that may take the form of a research paper, volunteer work or other challenge that includes a substantive Reconstructionist learning component. The student will be given the opportunity to share his or her experiences and discoveries with the broader Kol HaLev community. (Projects must be approved by the Rabbi, Education Director and chair of the Youth and Family Education committee.)
While attendance at Hagiga, Camp JRF and No’ar Hadash are not mandatory as noted above, they are the best ways to develop a positive Jewish, Reconstructionist identity. Therefore, all of our youth are strongly encouraged to attend at least two or more of these activities.
Every effort should be made to fulfill these standards. However, the committee realizes there can be special circumstances that preclude their fulfillment. Any exceptions to these standards shall be made only upon approval of the Rabbi, Education Director, and the chair of the Youth and Family Education committee.
Every young Jew automatically becomes Bar/Bat Mitzvah when he or she reaches the age of 13. These guidelines reflect Kol HaLev's recommendations regarding the celebration of that transition to adult Jewish life. We also recognize that some young persons at the age of twelve will not have developed an understanding of Judaism that adequately prepares them for the intensive study during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. We encourage such young adults to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony after the age of 13. Such a postponement provides an opportunity to take this major step empowered with Jewish knowledge. It will be at the discretion of the Rabbi to determine the readiness of the child for his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Year
The years before and the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Kol HaLev are a time of intensive Jewish living and learning, modeling the opportunities for kedusha (holiness) that Jewish life offers adult members of the community. While these guidelines are aimed at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student, our understanding of Jewish life places a premium on family involvement. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience can provide the entire family with new opportunities for Jewish growth.
The recommended dimensions of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year within Kol HaLev are the following:
- Development of ritual skills. Following a plan approved by the Rabbi, at least six months of individualized tutoring focusing on the ritual skills that will prepare the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to take a significant role in services on his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah including some or all of the following: reading Torah, reading Haftorah, leading the Torah service, presenting a D'var Torah, and leading the prayers of the Shaharit (morning) service.
- Participation in Shabbat services. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah, with one or both parents, should attend at least twelve Kol HaLev Shabbat services in the two years preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Initially, this will be an opportunity to become familiar with the service. Later there will be "ritual apprenticeships" ‐ opportunities to lead sections of the service.
Torah Study, Tikkun Olam and Tzedekah
Along with other families celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah that year, the family will participate in Rabbi Steve’s Cohort involving more in‐depth Torah study. In addition, either individually or together with the other Bar/Bat Mitzvah students and/or their families, the student will engage in a project related to developing a sense of ethical/Jewish obligation. Our Informed and Involved Values Team can be a significant resource in this process. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is also encouraged to donate a portion of his or her gift money to tzedekah.
The Services Celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
The Kol HaLev Rabbi will meet with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his or her family to plan the service for the Shabbat of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Families are reminded that this event is both an important family milestone and a regular service of Kol HaLev which follows our usual format. This service provides an opportunity for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his or her family, with the guidance of the Rabbi, to incorporate some of their own creative and interpretive understandings into the general framework of the Kol HaLev Shabbat morning service. In addition to the wide range of selections within the Reconstructionist siddur (prayer book), the family is welcome to introduce other prayers, readings and poetry that they may wish to include in a small supplementary program which might also include the order of the service as an aid to visitors, a personal statement by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and acknowledgments. This service should last approximately two to two and one‐half hours in length.
In planning the service, the Rabbi will guide the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family in selecting three to seven aliyot during the Torah service. One is customarily a group aliyah in honor of celebrations or a theme from the Torah portion; other aliyot might include the parents, extended family, or friends. Non‐Jewish family or friends are welcome to go up for a group aliyah.
Following the service, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family hosts a kiddush for all persons attending the service and should be present at this kiddush to celebrate with the community. The kiddush does not need to be a luncheon, necessarily, but is generally festive. Other members may be called upon to assist. Kiddush guidelines are available from the Kiddush Coordinator and are posted on the Kol HaLev website (www.kolhalev.net).
Kol HaLev considers Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations to be truly community events. Kol HaLev meets regularly for Shabbat morning services at our spiritual home at the Ratner School. The second Shabbat of each month is Rabbi Steve’s weekend off. Our expectation is that all Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations will occur at Ratner on a regularly scheduled Shabbat (any Saturday other than the second). Under extraordinary circumstances, requests for exceptions to this guideline may be considered by the Religious Practices Committee and Rabbi Steve. All exceptions must be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board.
Kol HaLev has a policy for maintaining sacred space during services. No photography and/or videotaping are permitted at services unless done in an unobtrusive manner, with stationary cameras set up in the back of the room without the use of flash or artificial lighting. Flash photography is permitted before and after the service and at the Kiddush. If photographs in front of the ark and with the Torah are requested, they may be taken before or after the service.
The First Years Following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience cannot be meaningful as an event unto itself. Just as we require previous Jewish education and community participation, we expect and urge continued Jewish learning and activity, as well as connecting with the Kol HaLev community. We strongly recommend this education and connection to be facilitated through the Hagiga program.
In recognition of his or her new status, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be called upon to perform volunteer service for Kol HaLev just as adult members are. This service may take any form within the broader life of Kol HaLev; it may be in the form of contributing to Shabbat services in some way, such as reading Torah, or it may be helping out with younger children or making phone calls to organize a meeting.
To continue their Jewish learning, we encourage all our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs to take advantage of the many resources, both locally, nationally and internationally, including Akiva Hebrew High School, No'ar Hadash ‐‐the JRF youth program, Camp JRF, and Israel trips, in addition to Hagiga.
As these guidelines indicate, becoming an adult Jew does not happen all at once. We are always in the process of creating a meaningful Jewish life. Kol HaLev is striving for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience that will both honor and welcome a young person into our participatory and intergenerational community.
Approved June 2003
Revised July 2004
Revised July 2006
Revised August 2010
Revised July 2013