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Bar and Bat Mitzvah Planning

Dear Parents, 

Mazal Tov as you embark on the exciting adventure of planning your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah! As you usher your child into adulthood (or at least teenagehood), the logistics and emotions of planning this event can seem overwhelming. We want to offer you some guidelines about going through this process. Our clergy and lay leadership look forward to helping you shape the simha that best fits your family’s desires within the framework of halakha and the policies of Netivot Shalom.

Meeting with The Rabbi or Rabbanit:

The family and bar or bat mitzvah are encouraged to reach out to the rabbi or rabbanit, depending on their preference, six months (or more) before the date of the simha, to discuss what they and their child envision for the event at Netivot Shalom; what they are exploring in terms of learning and/or chesed projects and what kind of support they would like and need from the shul, its clergy and lay leadership to make the event as meaningful and joyous as possible. The rabbi and rabbanit can recommend, if needed, tutors or teachers who can teach the leining or the various tefillot depending on what is being planned. The rabbi and rabbanit can also discuss any specific learning the bar or bat mitzvah might like to do  (no obligation :)) with a clergy member in the months and weeks running up to the simha. A week or two prior to the event, the rabbi or rabbanit will offer to meet with the bar or bat mitzvah, to go out and share some food and discuss the upcoming event and any last minute questions and/or practice the D’var Torah with them in the shul.

Ritual Options for Your Family’s Simha Celebration:

There is no one “correct” model of what a Bar/Bat Mitzvah must look like, and our clergy and staff will support you in creating the ceremony that works for you and your child.

Bar Mitzvah:

A Bar Mitzvah is a meaningful marker of a boy’s entry into Jewish adulthood, and we look forward to supporting your son in his ritual participation in a way that best fits his needs.

A Bar Mitzvah boy may take part in leading any part of the davening from kabbalat shabbat through Musaf or Mincha if he is interested and up to it. He is invited to read as much of the Parashat Hashavuah in shul as he would like, receive the Maftir or any other Aliya, read the Haftarah, and/or deliver a D'var Torah at the conclusion of Musaf. Other options exist when the Bar Mitzvah occurs on Rosh Chodesh or Purim or Hannukah that comes out on a Sunday or national holiday. (During the weekdays we generally do not have access to the shul area as it is used by Gan Henel.)

Bat Mitzvah:

A girl’s Bat Mitzvah offers an exciting opportunity for exploring traditional and creative ways to make this occasion a meaningful entry into Jewish adulthood.

Your daughter and other family and friends can lead the davening and lain the Torah portion at a full Women's Tefillah service. This could be a women’s leyning that takes place at the same time as the standard leyning. It could also take place after kiddush (depending on the time of year, also including Minha– see below for more information). Or it could be a Women’s Tefillah service for Shaharit outdoors in the parking lot (again depending on the time of year). As our shul space changes, we look forward to being able to offer even more options with additional spaces. The family can invite up to 9 male family members and/or close family friends to come into the Women’s Tefillah Service during Torah reading only. Men would be required to sit in a separate area during the women’s keriah.

Shabbat Afternoon Mincha: This service and Torah reading is shorter than the Shacharit service, and offers you a chance to invite your family and friends to join you for Kiddush, followed by a speech and a Mincha service or a Seudah Shelishit, a light afternoon meal, later in the day. Your daughter also has the opportunity to lead a Torah study or deliver a D’var Torah. The Women’s Tefillah service for Mincha can take place in any shul venue, the Main Sanctuary included.

Holiday Mornings: If your date falls near Purim, consider having your daughter lain all or part of the book of Esther at the Women’s Tefillah Purim Morning reading. If your date falls near Shavuot, the Women’s Tefillah reading of Megillat Rut can be particularly meaningful for a girl’s entry into womanhood.

Divrei Torah:

During the regular tefillah services, the general practice at Netivot is that the Rabbi or Rabbanit will deliver the D’var Torah at the regular place in tefillah prior to Musaf. At the conclusion of services, the bar or bat mitzvah generally will deliver a D’var Torah and words of appreciation to the entire kehillah. This speech should be approximately 5-7 minutes. In addition, the family is entitled to have two more speakers each for 3-5 minutes.

There is a custom for a parent (or parents together) to recite a special blessing (Baruch She-Petarani Mei-Onsho shel zeh/zot) right after the child receives an aliyah for the first time. The parent/parents will be called to come near the bimah and recite the blessing at that time. In some Sephardic traditions, this blessing is not recited, while in others it is done. For a child who is not leyning or having an aliyah, this can be said after the D’var Torah following Musaf or at another appropriate time.

Celebration in Shul After Davening:

The family should be in contact with the lay leadership, at least three months in advance of the event, to discuss the post-shul celebration that they would like to see at shul after the conclusion of davening ( They can suggest caterers and other professionals that work with Netivot Shalom on s’mahot. Within the limitations of space, the shul has hosted many different types of kiddushim each crafted to the needs and desires of the family celebrating their milestone events. Further details on planning an event at Netivot Shalom are available here.

We wish you all a wonderful and meaningful ride as you prepare and experience these beautiful milestones in your child and family’s life!

We can’t wait to celebrate with you and your family.

Mazal Tov!

Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot and Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn


Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784