Bar and Bat Mitzvah curriculum for an Alternative Preparation and Service
Dave Savage - mentor 404 323-8686 email@example.com This is an evolving document. updated Jan. 2013
This may appeal to families with a cultural, secular or humanistic approach to their Jewishness.
My Bar/Bat Mitzvah training and service stresses the sharing of a well rounded Jewish education.
Most of the learning is family based and only done with the student’s interest driving the effort.
Age 13 is the first year you can have the ceremony. Doing it later adds maturity
The structure of the preparation is similar to a boy scout preparing for the Eagle Scout honor.
Each merit badge represents learning something new and different or one skill building on another.
There is an element of leadership and participation in family and community development.
A creative ceremony for family and friends can also be created sharing some of what was learned.
A perspective: from Rabbi David S. Widzer
“I try to be very cautious in the language that I use, for words have meaning beyond their surface understanding. And so I encourage my congregation to use the phase “becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah” instead of “having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.” That is to say, from my point of view, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not something that you HAVE, it is something that you BECOME. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not the service or the party, it is the person who is undergoing a lifecycle transition.
Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah denotes a status change, both from the perspective of Jewish law and in the perspective of the congregation. It means that a person has attained a certain life-status. We may mark this transition in various ways (leading worship, chanting Torah, delivering a d’var Torah, having a celebration, etc.), but those are exterior trappings to denote the interior change that has occurred.
When I have been approached by almost thirteen-year-olds, or their parents, who want to “have” a Bar/Bat Mitzvah (and I have had this conversation with families who are members of my congregation, as well as non-members), we sit and talk about this distinction. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a statement about Jewish identity and personal maturity. It is a process, not an event. Some of these families decide to engage in the process. Some do not. But I have found that almost of all of them understand the meaning of Bar/Bat Mitzvah on a different level than previous to our conversation.”
Participating in a traditional synagogue service is one way to demonstrate a level of maturity and the “graduation” from a basic training in synagogue rituals and ceremonies. Unfortunately it doesn’t provide a way for the child to share what they know or have experienced about the many other areas of the historical and current Jewish cultural experience.
Below are some of the questions to answer and things to learn and share.
Each family establishes their own goals and processes with the guidance and oversight of someone they respect.
Who do you want or need to sanction the ceremony and preparation?
Who do you want or need to officiate?
What do you think a well-rounded young Jew should know and have experiences with?
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs happen when the person is prepared and ready, according to their agreement.
The date of the ceremony is connected to reaching the goals and objectives established – not age.
Consequences will be established in advance of the ceremony about what should happen if the date arrives before the child is ready or prepared?
No upsets and panicked kids or families – the date should be set after most of the preparation is complete.
We would prepare and edit our preparation plan from parent’s, mentor’s and the child’s goals.
Think of the process similar to earning merit badges toward your Eagle scout award ceremony.
Display materials as a part of the service.Scrap book of souvenirs and pictures from attending many kinds of events.
Science fair type of display to show your preparation at a glance.
Photograph every Jewish activity and learning experience to display later.
Share what has been learned and experienced to others and as a memory book.
I stress being a well-rounded individual – and this is one of the ways to show it.
Think of the learning process as a variation on the scouting merit badge program.
Things to understand and have a familiarity with:
Identify various kinds of Jewish music
Who are the famous Jewish composers and musicians
How the Jewish denominations are different and similarBe able to explain the differences between Judaism and other religions. (Core beliefs)
And the differences in the different streams of Judaism and what to expect in their congregational life.
IsraelIsrael, history, cities, places, current debates and institutions
Be able to locate key cities, landmarks and historical places on a map.
Watch movies and documentaries about Israel.
CultureJewish foods - Learn to make some and identify things at a Jewish deli and have an opinion on the taste of most of them
Jewish themed theater (the Jewish Theater of the South – at the Zeban AJC is one source (Atlantajcc.org)
Movies – The Atlanta Jewish Federation has a very large collection of videos and books
(Blazing Saddles, Hester Street, The Promise, Exodus
Ancient history -Who, what, where, why, when
Tell a little about the major players in our history
Create a time line chart of the highlights of Jewish history. Use a long piece of paper
Current history: - names and situations in the news: Who, what, where, why, when
Traditional religious practices and objects:
Identify what you would you see in traditional synagogue settings?
Learn and be able to explain what the Torah and other historical books are.
Delve deeper into their origins and life lessons/wisdom for you.
Learn about the message of the portion of the Torah for the week of your birthday – write a short report about it and
what life lessons you/e can learn from it
Rituals and ceremonies
Create and lead a Kiddush, Hamotzi, and candle lighting at a public event
Core values of JudaismMy Jewish identity – a journal – What value is it? What problems might I experience because of it and what should my reaction be? and other profound concepts and issues. (similarities and differences with others)
Being able to explain to other kids what you believe and do that makes you the kind of Jew you are.
HolidaysBe able to explain what the major Jewish holidays are about and what knowledge or guidance you can get from that.
Be able to say some traditional blessings and know what you are saying so that you could participate with others.
Create your own invocations for the same occasions.
Be able to sing along with some Jewish songs without reading the words (listen to them many times)
Hebrew – understand the meaning of our list of words, identify and know the sounds of most of the letters
Yiddish – know what it is, know the meaning of the words on our list.
Know a little about the difference between Ashkinazim and Safardic cultures and their histories.
Develop a person statement of belief, creed and behavior code. I believe in…
15 minute report on a Jewish person and how they express their Judaism as a role model for you and the community
Famous people Misc.
Who are some famous Jews from history and today in various areas, politics, music, theater, literature, philanthropy, movie, TV, politicians, your community
Background knowledgeName the months of the Jewish Calendar
What does year 1 in the Jewish calendar represent. Why was that time chosen as year 1?
Congregational LeadershipGain comfort level in being in front of the congregation by participating in Shabbat and holiday presentations
Creating (cut and paste and edit) a Shabbat service that you lead
Social Action projectHave a mitzvah social action component.
Using and understanding some Yiddish and Hebrewbeing comfortable using and understanding common words and phrases
Being able to recite and identify the Hebrew alphabet\
Using the internet to get Jewish related information
Learning how to share with your peers
What is Judaism?
What you do or believe that reflects - expresses your Judaism to others?
What and why you believe as you do theologically. What do I mean when I use the word God?
The similarities and difference between Jewish denominations?
The similarities and differences with other faiths?
Activities to choose from:
Movies with a Jewish theme or situation: Avalon, Fiddler on the Roof, Hester Street
The AJCC at Zeban has a large Jewish video library to rent.
Museums: The Wm. Breman Museum in Atlanta, the Holocaust memorial in Washington DC
Jewish humor: books or records by: Alan Sherman, Alan King and others
Jewish foods around the world - Foods to taste and be familiar with (English and Hebrew/Yiddish names) Gefilte fish, Matzo balls (knadlach) matzabrie, Kasha and Varnishkas ( bowtie noodles), Tsimis (carrots and raisins or prunes) baked in butter and honey, Hamentashin, Challah, Knishas, borscht, sufgoniot (sephardic Hanukkah donuts), Jewish Rye bread
Reading list to choose from:
The Promise or The Chosen by Chaim Potok,
The Source By James Michner
My Generations: A Course in Jewish family History by Arthur Kurzweil,
Great Jewish Women by Elinor and Robert Slater.
Great Jews on Stage and Screen by Lyman
READ, Print and store Jewish articles you have read on the web so others will know what you have been exposed to
Print and file a copy of each thing you read. (part of the display of materials at the service and scrapbook)
If we know what has gone into your head, we have some idea what may come out.
Shabbat dinners: Inviting people over to discuss how others experienced and enhanced their Judaism
Interview relatives and friends about their Jewish experiences, identity and fond memories