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September 2, 2015 | 18th Elul 5775
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B'nei Mitzvah Ceremony on Friday Night and Minchah
See also other B'nei Mitzvah categories, as well as "Shabbat Morning Services"

  1. Our Temple has been calling two students to the Torah as b'nei mitzvah on Shabbat morning for several years. We do not celebrate bar/bat mitzvah during an Friday night Shabbat service, but we did schedule Shabbat Minchah services for a short time. However, we are no longer scheduling Minchah services for many reasons (clergy reluctance, dress, etc.). This is a hot topic in the congregation as many of our families want their child to celebrate bar/bat mitzvah alone and in the late afternoon.

    Logistically, each student chants four aliyot (the cantor makes each one longer than if the student was chanting seven), either the opening or closing blessings for haftarah, and part of the haftarah. Depending on the students' abilities, they might lead additional prayers during the service. Our cantor tries very hard to keep things "even" so not to allow a more advanced student to really overshadow the partner.

    On Friday evenings, family members (usually mother, older sister and/or grandmother) of both students light Shabbat candles and both students assist in leading the service. Our Shabbat morning service where two students are called to the Torah is just that -- a service where two students are called to the Torah. There is nothing that the kids do together -- they each read from a different section of the parashah and haftarah, lead different prayers, deliver their own d'var Torah, etc.

    Another challenge with doubles is the families and the receptions. Some families work together where one will have an afternoon reception and the other Saturday evening, but there are frequent Saturdays where kids are invited to two receptions at the same time and are forced to choose between their friends. We did have one situation where the two families were good friends and made a combined reception. More frequently, parents try to change their assigned date so that their child is not doubled with a good friend.

    500 members

  2. How wonderful it would be if the hardest problem faced by synagogues was not enough time to schedule all the b'nei mitzvah and other Jewish rituals that give meaning to our lives! My congregation has about 1200 families and although we can go months without any b'nei mitzvah, we have certain periods of the year (spring and sometimes fall) when we often must do at least 3 every Shabbat. We no longer do them at erev Shabbat services except by very rare exception, our evenings start at 8:15 and it becomes too long for the congregation. In addition to Shabbat morning, we sometimes have Thursday mornings, and often Shabbat Minchah. Sometimes [we have] one at 3 PM and the second a few hours later, or one at 5 and the second at 7 or later. Actually, Shabbat Minchah b'nei mitzvah are not at all uncommon in this city which is mainly Orthodox rather than Reform or even Conservative. Our Minchah services are full services, every bit as meaningful and spiritual as a morning service, and incorporate a beautiful Havdalah ceremony. They are definitely much more than just lead-ins to a party, even though evening dress is usually worn. Many families prefer Minchah services because overall, they tend to be less of a financial undertaking than a morning service and an evening party (one meal, one set of clothes, etc.)

    1200 members

  3. When I returned to my former synagogue, for celebration of a bar mitzvah, I was delighted to find that the congregation had amazingly reclaimed both Friday night and Saturday morning worship services. Both services were opportunities to pray during a service which included a simchah, rather than a particular family's personalized celebration that happened to include a few hours at a synagogue or catering hall. The delicate balance that the rabbi and cantor have achieved between "normal" Shabbat worship services and the sense of the "special occasion" was perfect. I was told by the Temple Educator, that this change in worship had evolved slowly, deliberately, and with both lay and clergy working together. And, as one might guess, it had not been without its controversy. Perhaps they would be willing to share their process with you.


  4. We've also had monthly Friday night b?nei mitzvah for some time, and have not "twinned" the kids unless it has been offered. However, there has been a desire to eliminate the Friday Torah readings.

    Our rabbis don't want to force twinning, but the board wants us to end Fridays. Has anyone gone through this situation? How did you make the transition?

    900 units

  5. We have not, at least in my thirteen years in the congregation, held Friday or Havdalah services to mark a bar/bat mitzvah. We also don't want to force "doubling" though it is an option I can recall two sets of families using. What we have recently moved to is holding two morning services a few weeks a year; one at 9:00 A.M. or 9:30 A.M., and the second beginning at 11:00 A.M. or 11:30 A.M. As long as the "early" family doesn't wish to use the Social Hall for a reception, it works well.

    680 member units

  6. There is another option to provide single spotlight b?nei mitzvah--Shabbat Minchah. However, given that there is probably not a Reform congregation in North America that regularly holds Minchah services on Shabbat, that is a clear privatization of what should be a community event. It has many advantages to the parents--they don't have to provide sponge cake and herring to strangers, as they might after a morning bar mitzvah--they only have to feed their invited guests, and they can go right from shul and start partying. (Hypothetically, you could also do Monday or Thursday mornings.)

    But we might also ask, what's wrong with doubles? Again, the parents don't want little Sammy (named, as my mother-in-law loves to tell, after his grandfather Shawn) to have to share attention with Benjy, especially if Benjy reads Hebrew better.

    Once upon a time, the congregation "owned" the Shabbat morning service, and gave the maftir aliyah to the bar mitzvah boy, and probably also gave an aliyah to the father and grandfather(s). The other aliyot were distributed by the shamash. One of the major reasons so many congregations that participate in this list have "alternative" services on Shabbat morning is because what should be a service for the regular daveners has become a show put on by and for an individual family. (In some congregations, the message is clear that Shabbat morning services with a bar mitzvah are by invitation only.)

    So realistically, the options are Friday night, Saturday afternoon, or multiples. I vote for multiples.


  7. Several years ago, our congregation began to double up for some b'nei mitzvah on Saturday mornings when we were getting to about thirty or more young men and women each year. We wanted to be sure we had a fair number of non-bar/bat mitzvah Shabbats each year. I think we considered adding Friday night or Havdalah services for a bar or bat mitzvah, but in the end, we decided to double up when necessary. This practice continues and I think it's working out pretty well. Depending on the number of 13-year-olds we have each year, I think only a handful or so have to double up.

    Friday night b'nei mitzvah are rare. In my experience, I think we've done them either because of a particular family situation, or in the case of adult b'nei mitzvah (the one instance I'm thinking of involved eight women together), although we have also celebrated them on Saturdays as well.

    440 member units

  8. At [our congregation] we have had in excess of seventy b'nei mitzvah per year for at least five years. As we do not have b'nei mitzvah in July and August or on the HHD, and we reserve several Shabbatot each year for special programming, like our scholar in residence program, we had to find an alternative. About six years ago, we made it our policy that all b'nei mitzvah would be twinned, with very few exceptions for children with special needs. We changed the time of Shabbat morning services from 10:45 to 10:30 to accommodate a somewhat longer Torah reading (we went from twenty-one verses for one child to approximately thirty verses split between two children and now do most if not all of the haftarah). We also reduced the speech burden on the b'nei mitzvah by requiring only one speech each (a d?rash on either the Torah or haftarah portion); formerly each child had to speak about both the Torah and haftarah portions. The b'nei mitzvah now lead most of the service. Although it is our custom to read Torah on Friday night, we have never had b'nei mitzvah then. Instead, once or twice a month we have Shabbat Minchah services at 5:00 on Saturday afternoon. No one is assigned a Minchah service unless they request it.

    1200 families

  9. Ah....what a problem to have too many children in a grade becoming b?nei mitzvah in a year!!

    Once our congregation had enough children to require doubling, and we used to have some Friday nights as well. Our last rabbi eliminated the Friday night option for b?nei mitzvah, as we also eliminated the Friday night Torah reading.

    We have two services on Shabbat AM when there is a b?nei mitzvah--that service at 10:30 A.M. and a rabbi-led small minyan at 9:00 A.M.

    In theory, it would be nice if there could be only one community service on Shabbat, at which the b?nei mitzvah just "happens." But, this does not appear to exist in Reform communities, and I think that rather than fight it, we need to accept it. Not all worship experiences work for everyone, all the time. Just ask a kid who loves services at camp!

    ~300 families

  10. I struggled with this at my son's bar mitzvah last spring. I didn't want what I felt was a congregational service to be a private event. My solution was as follows.

    One of the honors given at our temple is the closing of the Ark. I asked the first and last b?nei mitzvah from my son's class to do this together. I asked my son's Hebrew tutor, a high school member of the congregation to read Torah. I asked another friend from the congregation to also read Torah. Other aliyahs were given to relatives. Other verses were read by relatives, and I also read (for my first time, as back in my day it was not often that a girl had a bat mitzvah). It meant a lot to me to have members of the congregation and also family members be a part of the day. We invited all who attended services to attend the luncheon following in the social hall. We had a party for invited guests later that evening.

    375 members

  11. We used to belong to a much larger congregation [that] faced many of the problems [that Iris cited]. One of the advantages of my current congregation is that because of its size and the type of community we are in (many retirees), we do not have bar or bat mitzvah every week--they are occasional, and when they occur, they are special. The usual Saturday morning service goers are augmented when there is a bar or bat mitzvah not only by the family and friends of the youngster, but also by any number of other congregants who want to share the joyful occasion. It is certainly different from our regular service in many ways, but our regulars still show up, and we do ask that Kiddush be provided for all--though it needn't be elaborate. Usually there is an additional party that takes place away from the synagogue in the evening to which only family and friends are invited. There is a feeling that the youngster is becoming a part of our adult community; however, we are not very successful in having the kids show up for other services, except perhaps for holidays. So we have plenty of problems of our own.

    160 units

  12. We have had Shabbat morning service regardless of b?nei mitzvah for as long as I can remember--over fifty-five years. We have gone from doubles almost weekly to occasional b?nei mitzvah for a period of time as the community shrank back to a full load and some doubles now. We have never had services at Minchah or Havdalah or Friday for the b?nei mitzvah other than for special needs children. This had caused some hard feelings, but we have stuck to it because of the communal nature of the service.

    The addition of speeches by the parents as they hand the Torah down and more participation by the b?nei mitzvah has made many regulars feel that the service has been hijacked by the family. Also, as it happens, most of our regulars sit to the sides, and the "guests" fill the center making for a loss of communal feeling.

    Our regular Torah Study at 9:15 A.M. has added an abbreviated service at 9:00 A.M. once a month for the past two years. This may someday expand into a more regular service. It is generally rabbi led. I personally go to Torah Study and then to the service in the main sanctuary, because I feel it is important that regulars attend that service. As a step towards inclusiveness, the first aliyah is reserved for the congregation and is a group aliyah for all those who have reason to participate.

    about 1300 families

  13. The child is being honored, not crowned!!!!


  14. Bar/bat mitzvahs are generally Saturday mornings, with the occasional Friday Night. Our classes are getting so large that we have, on rare occasion, doubled up. Dates are determined almost two years ahead, and with families moving in to the area, scheduling gets tricky. Before we had so many b?nei mitzvah, we did not have regular Saturday morning services. Now it is very regular. Aliyot are families of the b?nei mitzvah. The problem of the family Kiddush is moot; we do not have a social hall as such, and most families have their celebrations elsewhere. The b?nei mitzvah family usually hosts the Friday Night Shabbat Kiddush; another family from that class ushers and serves.


  15. We have taken the position for some years that a maftir, haftarah, and d?rash are not adequate for a thirteen-year-old to take his or her place in the community. Here the young people lead the service, from just before the Hatzi Kaddish. The cantor leads some things, and the rabbi others, but the kid is the major person.

    I know it's controversial, and not every place can do it. But as a Saturday attendee, I have seen the result. As they realize that they're not just "in the spotlight" but also seriously, meaningfully involved in the presentation of worship, they attain a responsibility and maturity beyond the Party. The levels depend on the family and the child, but it's quite true.

    900 members


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