I fundamentally believe, as does our tradition, that one becomes Bar/Bat Mitzvah automatically even without a ceremony or five years of Hebrew school and synagogue membership. Since it happens automatically, families are invited to find the right Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Jewish learning program for their child whether it is at Shabbat Mincha/Maariv, Havadalah, or on Purim, or on a Monday morning of a legal holiday. And there is no right place, synagogues are nice if you love your synagogue. The outdoors too, as is the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the old 1840s Angel Orensanz building on Manhttan’s Lower East Side, Columbia University’s elegant Casa Italiana, the exquisite courtyard of Union Theological Seminary, a mountain top, or even a tent at your weekend home.
It doesn’t say anywhere in the Torah, Bible, or later sources that Jewish learning should be an unpleasant chore. Jewish learning and the experience of becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah should be pleasant, rich and filled with wonderful experiences and the acquisition of lots of life-long knowledge.
I therefore work year round teaching Jewish studies and giving Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons to students with various backgrounds and learning styles. Some of these students ultimately celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah in Reform, Conservative or Orthodox synagogues, while others prefer more creative, out-of-synagogue services.
I am always willing to help families think and talk through various options for Jewish learning and Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs evolving to Zoom in response to Coronavirus
Jake’s bar mitzvah was scheduled to take place at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The trip is postponed due to Coronavirus, but creatively moved to Zoom–with 69 families and friends participating!