Bar Mitzvah at 13 in Terezin. Now 83, at HBT
By John Freund
Bar / Bat Mitzvah
I had an amazing experience, studying and being a part of Holy Blossom’s community. Everyone is helpful and made it a full learning experience. I now am prepared, ready and excited for the next stage of my life with Holy Blossom.
Kol hakavod! The fact that you have clicked on this page means that are committed to raising your child in the ways of the Jewish tradition. Standing by your child when s/he takes his/her place among the congregation and the Jewish people by reading from the Torah for the first time as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the most joyful way to affirm your commitment.
During the preparation for my bar mitzvah I have had nothing but pleasure. I have been breezing through it in such a way, I feel like instead of extra work, it is one of my hobbies. Every day when I get home from school I sprint to my room to study it. I love it so much, one time I brought it to school to practice. I am looking forward to the day I get called to the torah so I can show the congregation what I have been working on for months.
At Holy Blossom Temple we ensure that the day of celebration is meaningful and memorable. Moreover, our holistic approach extends far beyond the simcha on the bima.
We are very proud of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, which creates an outlook, a Jewish identity, and a foundation of Jewish learning and action that will last a lifetime.
Enjoy the information, photographs, and testimonials below. They will give you a glimpse into what makes Holy Blossom Temple’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program so special.
Well, for me practicing and the whole experience was very hard. And I must say I thought it would be a piece of cake, but it wasn’t. it was a lot of work always practicing for 20 minutes everyday but at the end it was all worth it. When I was up on the bima, saying the blessings, and looking down at all my peers, I felt really proud of myself. My mother even mentioned in her speech how with the help of my tutor Happy, I did the whole thing on my own. My parents didn’t help me at all. One of my favourite parts was not only the amazing party after but actually learning Hebrew. I must admit that I was always one of the girls who never really listened, so for me the whole experience, I really caught up on my reading of Hebrew. My tutor really helped me with that. At the end of it all, I had a great experience, from learning my Torah portion to chanting it in front of my family, friends and the rest of the congregation.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah FAQ
‘Bar/Bat Mitzvah’ is the status of a person, not an event in time. Traditionally, religious responsibility is assumed at age 12 and 13 years for Jewish girls and boys, respectively. With or without the public reading of Torah, one assumes the status of Bar/Bat Mitzvah: ‘a son or daughter of the mitzvot.’
With or without a ceremony, one becomes responsible for the mitzvot, the commandments. (accordingly, one is not ‘Bar/Bat Mitzvahed.’ One does not ‘have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.’) however, we should not let a life-cycle moment pass by without celebration and expressions of gratitude. And so, a ceremony marking this transition from childhood to adulthood developed over time. In the course of Jewish history, the ritual aspects of becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah are relatively new and were not regularly practiced until the late Middle Ages.
The basic elements remain the same today. The community invites the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to receive the highest honour and greatest responsibility – reading from the Torah on behalf of the congregation. The congregation honours the Bar/Bat Mitzvah for bringing honour to the Torah.
Reading from the Torah as a representative of the congregation is a joyful privilege, earned through regular study and involvement in the life of the congregation. We have a full staff of professionals ready to help our students succeed in meeting the high standards of our program. The following educational program must be completed in order to celebrate Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Holy Blossom Temple:
1. Religious Studies – our program requires that:
- Students attend Holy Blossom Temple’s Religious School or a recognized Jewish Day School from age eight years; and
- All students (including Jewish Day School students) attend Holy Blossom Temple’s Senior School throughout the entire Grade 7 school year (and the following year if they are celebrating in their Grade 8 year).
2. Hebrew Studies – our program requires that:
- Students complete four years of study in Holy Blossom Temple’s Hebrew School or a recognized Jewish Day School.
3. Student Participation – our program requires that Bar/Bat Mitzvah students participate in the following:
- Senior School (Mondays from 6:30 – 8:30pm throughout the school year)
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutorials: one of the Temple’s tutors will meet individually with students on a weekly basis to help them master their Torah and Haftarah portions
- One weekend retreat in the fall
- Preparation of a D’var Torah: your child will choose a theme from the Torah portion and pursue it with serious study. We encourage students to share the D’var Torah with family and friends at your celebratory meal.
- Completion of Sha’arei Kehillah, our hands-on mitzvah workbook
- Family Education programs – (Monday evenings during Senior School) Parents are the most influential Jewish role models for their children, and celebrating Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a significant milestone in the life of the entire family.
While becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah has great personal and familial significance, the life-cycle event gains lasting meaning because it takes place in the presence of one’s synagogue community. At Holy Blossom Temple, both girls and boys are invited, at the age of 13 years, to celebrate becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the context of any of our congregational services at which Torah is read:
- Shabbat mornings – at our main Congregational Service or at our Family Service
- Monday and Thursday mornings
- Rosh Chodesh mornings
- Any other special day when Torah is read
Each service setting has its own flavour. We are happy to help you choose the best service setting for your simcha and explain the relevant details.
In the spring of your child’s Grade 5 year, given your child has met the educational requirements, you will receive a date request package in the mail.
The ideal date to celebrate becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the first Shabbat following your child’s 13th birthday.
Exceptions may be made as long as the date requested does not precede the 13th birthday by more than one month, nor follow it by more than 3 months. When indicating your date preferences, keep in mind the fact that when allocating dates, priority is given to children whose birth dates are closest to the dates requested.
So long as your child fulfills Holy Blossom Temple’s education requirements, we are happy to provide the tutor and training for your celebration in Israel. In advance of your trip, a Rabbi will help your child prepare a d’var Torah. Sha’arei Kehillah hands-on mitzvah projects may be integrated in your travels.
On the Shabbat just before or after your trip to Israel, we would like to call the Bar/Bat Mitzvah for an aliyah, to recite the Torah blessings and celebrate your milestone in the midst of the congregation, local family and friends.
We have several spaces within the Temple that are available to use for your celebratory meals. There is no room rental fee for members, however we do request a $300 booking deposit, refundable following your event.
The Temple has a list of approved caterers for any meals hosted at the Temple. Well in advance of your simcha, you will receive an information package with all the details concerning catering, photography, security, etc. Our facilities manager and Bar/Bat Mitzvah coordinator are here to help you.
Enhancing the congregational Kiddush is a lovely gesture which further includes the congregation in your simcha. Our facilities manager and Bar/Bat Mitzvah coordinator can provide you with more information about this option.
- Tuition for Grade 7 Senior School ($900 in 2013-2014)
- Tutoring Fee, which includes 24 X ½ hr sessions, plus materials ($880)
- Donation to the Congregational Kiddush Fund ($180)*
- Donation to the Sisterhood Floral fund (suggested minimum $36)*
- $300 room booking deposit if hosting a private Kiddush luncheon ($175 is credited to your account after the event. $125 held for security fee). An additional coat check fee is also applied between October and April for events in the Philip Smith Congregational Hall.
- 8 months prior: each child is assigned a Torah and Haftarah portion. Each family will receive a phone call from our lead tutor, Dalia Alalouf, 416-789-3291, ext. 238 to arrange for weekly tutorials.
- 6 months prior: one-on-one tutoring begins and continues up to the week of celebrating becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah
- 3 months prior: you and your child receive a letter from one of the Rabbis to have 2 meetings:
- The first is for the families who are celebrating on the same Shabbat to meet one another, and for the Rabbi to answer any questions, talk about the significance of becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and to discuss the D’var Torah and Sha’arei Kehillah.
- The second is for your child to meet individually with the Rabbi to go over his/her completed Sha’arei Kehillah, and finalize the D’var Torah.
4 to 6 weeks prior: Cantor appointments will begin. During these meetings, the Cantor further prepares the student to read the Torah and Haftarah from the bimah.
- The Thursday prior: at 4:30pm, the Cantor holds a ‘walk-through’ rehearsal with the B’nei mitzvah, their parents and everyone who has been given an honour. All details of ‘choreography’ are reviewed to orient everyone on the bimah.
- Friday night before: we encourage each family to attend the Kabbalat Shabbat service (6pm), and invite the mother of each Bar/Bat Mitzvah to light the Shabbat candles on behalf of the congregation.
- Shabbat morning 10am: the B’nei Mitzvah families gather in the Senior Rabbi’s study to discuss the significance of the day. Each student is presented with a Bar/Bat Mitzvah certificate, and a gift towards both the Confirmation Israel Trip, and a NFTY Israel trip. Parents can present a tallit and kippah to their child, to recite the blessings for the first time