Updated: Jun 8
Many of us grew up in the era of synagogue membership. Our parents joined the local shul, joined committees, drove us to and from Hebrew School and occasionally attended Shabbat and holiday services. Today synagogue membership feels much more complicated. On a practical level, we lead busy lives, have less time to volunteer, afternoon carpools are difficult, and let's face it, membership can be expensive. Beyond the practical considerations we can't always find the synagogue that "feels right". We're looking for a place to build community, to celebrate, learn and pray in ways that feel comfortable to us. So, what can we do?
The first thing to know is that no matter what you choose to do, or not do, your child becomes a Bar / Bat /B'nai Mitzvah (a Jewish adult) on their 13th Hebrew birthday. The rituals, traditions and customs associated with becoming Bar / Bat / B'nai Mitzvah are ways of marking this occasion in your child's life. Think about it. We all know people who celebrated their Bar / Bat / B'nai Mitzvah well after their 13th birthday. They were considered Jewish adults. Your child is no different.
Next you should know that how your child marks his or her Bar /Bat / B'nai Mitzvah is entirely up to you. In congregational settings there are often "Bar /Bat / B'nai Mitzvah Requirements." You should know that these requirements are set by the congregation. Whether or not your child reads from the Torah, completes a Mitzvah Project, leads certain portions of the service or gives a speech, is up to you and your child. There are no hard and fast rules.
Finally, I hope you know there are options. There are Rabbis just like me who are here to support and assist you in designing and preparing for an Independent Bar / Bat Mitzvah. Rabbi's who want to hear about your hopes and dreams for your family's Judaism. Rabbi's who want to make sure the process of preparing for Bar /Bat Mitzvah is meaningful, relevant and stress free. Don't give up! Don't worry! Get out there and find the right Rabbi to guide you and your child through this rite of passage!
Rabbi Jennifer Rudin, an Independent, Progressive Rabbi, founded Simcha Services, Congregation Derech HaShalom. Rabbi Rudin is dedicated to supporting you in living "Your Judaism Your Way"