Some years back, we began offering an adult education class on Bimah Basics. We recommended it to all the 6th grade parents, but others frequently came to it. The blessings for reading the Torah were reviewed, as well as the blessings for tallit and how to touch the fringes of a tallit to the Torah before and after the Torah portion is read.
Each student opened the ark, held a Torah, recited the blessings before and after, and held and dressed a Torah. We have continued this class annually.
Rita 400 members
Regarding how pulpit honors are assigned, at our temple, members of the Worship Committee take responsibility for assigning pulpit honors. One committee member is responsible for selecting a member to light candles on Shabbat, if there is a bar/bat mitzvah during Shabbat a family member usually lights the candles.
Another committee member is responsible for assigning usher captains for each month. These captains contact congregants to serve as ushers. If there is a bar/bat mitzvah we ask the family to provide two ushers for the service in addition to the standard usher provided by the temple. Each month a different committee member is responsible for these tasks.
We maintain detailed records on who volunteers for which honor so that those given the responsibility for contacting them have a database from which to work. Most of the time the right hand knows what the left hand is doing so we don't have a person being asked to usher and read Torah the same day.
Bob 600+ members
A sub-committee of our Worship Committee that we call the Kavod Committee is supposed to line up aliyot, culling from the entire membership for a month or two ahead of time. I personally would like very much to emphasize asking the b'nei mitzvah from the previous year or two to do the aliyah on the erev Shabbat of their Torah portion. I think that would be a meaningful addition to our services, and a deserved honor for our young adults. Beth 750 members
In our congregation, bimah honors falls to the Ritual Committee, generally. Our board members serve as weekly ushers and we recruit volunteers for the High Holy Days. Also, as a mitzvah, our b'nei mitzvah students serve as ushers at each others simchot. A couple of members of the class greet people at the main doors and direct them to the sanctuary, a few more take responsibility for handing out kippot, talitot, prayer books and/or inserts, and escorting people inside. It's amazing what 12-13 year olds can do when you give them the responsibility. They've always done a very good job and it takes pressure off the b'nei mitzvah families. Y 101 members
We always attempt to give honors on an inclusive basis, starting with new members and those celebrating a simchah. Reminder calls for the honor are made several days before Shabbat. Ritual members fill in for the inevitable last minute cancellations and no shows. The experience of filling these honors, two of which do not require speaking, on a weekly basis can be rather discouraging.
After making numerous calls, the volunteer typically resorts to calling friends and regular attendees, hence the "same old faces." We are now starting to evaluate whether these "honors" are really honors in any sense, as so few congregants seem to have a desire to participate in them! The offering of an open meditation, an honor that requires one to either write a paragraph or two, or select a reading from our available sources, will probably be the first "honor" to disappear.
Myron 700 members
At our temple our senior rabbi assigns all pulpit honors. Usually the mother of the bar/bat mitzvah will light the candles and the father will lead the Kiddush. If there is no bar/bat mitzvah service the following day (or if the bar/bat mitzvah is not planning to attend the Friday service), the rabbi will ask other congregants. Members of our Board of Trustees sign up to do Shabbat evening ushering and make weekly announcements. Barb 555 members
At our temple Shabbat evening candles are lit by the mother of the bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah celebrant. If there is no bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah the next morning, the rabbi chooses a congregant on the spot. Shabbat evening ushers are assigned at the beginning of the year by the Men's Club. It is the individual ushers' responsibility to make changes among themselves in case of conflicts. Shabbat morning ushers are the responsibility of the bar or bat mitzvah parent. If there is no bar or bat mitzvah, no ushers are needed. Shabbat evening aliyot used to be assigned randomly, but now the entire congregation sings the Torah blessings. Edward 425 members
In response to bimah assignment questions, at our temple this responsibility belongs to the Ritual Committee. Each month, the chair assigns a member of the committee to make calls for the bimah assignments. We keep an updated binder with the listing of b'nei mitzvah for the Saturday mornings and those families are honored by lighting the candles and reciting the Kiddish on Friday nights. In that binder we also keep an updated list of yahrzeits and consult that list for aliyot, haftarah blessings and haftarah readings to honor the family members whose yahrzeits may be read during that week.
In addition, we ask the b'nei mitzvah families if they would like to honor other members of their family. We also keep notes based upon the responses we get from members, their preferences, their likes and dislikes, this makes it easier for the next person who may be assigning bimah responsibilities. It works well.
I was surprised to see how many people answering this question referred to women or girls only with regard to lighting Shabbat candles. Quite a few years ago at our temple, we changed our minhag from the mothers of the b'nei mitzvah to the b'nei mitzvah candidates themselves doing the candle lighting--whether they were boys, girls or one of each.
On the occasional Friday night where there is no b'nei mitzvah to be celebrated the next day, someone of either sex is usually asked by the senior rabbi to light the candles--he often knows who has just accomplished or celebrated something--or sometimes he just asks someone who hasn't been at temple for a while -spontaneity is us.
Sarah 920 members
In our synagogue the b'nei mitzvah family usually lights the candles. We seem to have gotten away from the former custom which was for the mother of that family, if she was Jewish, to do so. Having the whole family involved obviates that issue.
We usually have one board member and someone who is observing a yahrzeit sitting on the bimah. If one member of a couple is in that category the spouse usually joins him/her on the bimah. Others who sit on thebimahmay be related to the service in some way if it is a special Shabbat service for adult education, music, Sisterhood/Brotherhood, etc.
Robin 1100+ families
Since many members of our congregation are getting older, climbing the three tall steps to the bimah is getting difficult. We put a card table up off the bimah on the floor and the Torah is read there. All congregants, especially children, are invited to come up and watch the rabbi read from the Torah. Most people seem happy with this. We also have hakafah with lots of singing. The president or other board member carries the Torah and the rabbi follows and shakes hands and greets congregants. I like it. My son always kisses his siddur, touches my siddur, and then we touch the Torah with my siddur. My son doesn't really enjoy services but since about age nine he sits and reads the Plaut commentary during most of the service.
I believe aliyot are given out randomly by our president, usually to older members and those who do a lot of volunteer work. It seems mostly men are asked but usually two to three women are invited up each year. I have been asked to read the haftarah and blessings many times but only twice in eighteen years to Torah blessings.
Our congregation always invites two to six congregants to sit on the bimah each Shabbat and participate in leading the service (if they wish) when there is a 'regular' service, not when there is a Bar or Bat Mitzvah These congregants are in addition to our rabbi, cantor, and a representative of the officers or temple board, who also occupy bimah seats. In the past, we have called people with this invitation; mostly working from lists of people who are observing a Yahrzeit on a particular Shabbat. Members of the Ritual (Worship) committee are each asked to do the calling to arrange participants for one month of the year are [there] other methods/practices for inviting bimah participants that have worked successfully in other congregations?
440 family Units
Nov 2006 Digest 162
As frequent gabbai for our Shabbos Morning Minyan, I have what would normally be the great pleasure of asking attendees if they would like to be offered the honor of being called to the Torah for an aliyah. There are many mornings on which I have to ask many people (compared to the number of available aliyot), because many people, even those who attend the minyan regularly, cannot recite the b'rachot (even with the transliterated prompt card on the Torah table and the gabbai right next to them), because they are unfamiliar with what to do, because they are self-conscious, or for many other reasons, some of which are elucidated and would blow you away!
I can understand that not everyone might feel comfortable with, say, hagbah, but my fear is that the many who decline being offered Torah aliyot represent a general condition of our lack of Hebrew and ritual literacy.
I am in the midst of preparing a "Help! What Do I Do If I'm Offered a Torah Aliyah?" guide, which I hope to post on out shul Web site and will make available at our early minyan. Perhaps we'll even offer a little eat-bagels-and-learn-something session on various pulpit honors.
The other difficult honor we encounter on a weekly basis are the haftarah b'rachot. But, as they say, that's another story....
Nov 2006 Digest 163
It is awkward--both for the individual and for the congregation--when someone can not do the b'rachot properly. One option that no one has mentioned, and has a legitimate history in our Movement, is to do the b'rachot in English.
Personally, I prefer Hebrew when possible, but it is better not to have an awkward situation and embarrass someone publicly, especially when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative.