Moses Montefiore Temple Policy for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation
(revised and adopted 2009)
This policy is designed to clarify the Moses Montefiore Temple Worship Committee’s expectations of Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their families during preparation for, and participation in, the service in which a child will become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
The Worship Committee believes it is important to establish uniform, consistent standards of preparation for two primary reasons. First, the uniformity and consistency allow the Worship Committee to maintain equity in its approach towards all Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates. Second, the standards signal clearly the Worship Committee’s intention to insist that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their families display a sense of commitment to, and seriousness about, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation.
It is expected that families will remain members in good standing of Moses Montefiore Temple throughout the process of preparation and celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
When becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and undertaking its preparation at Moses Montefiore Temple, students and their families must understand that they are being given a privilege to lead our congregation in worship. By accepting that privilege, they also are accepting the responsibility for gaining a certain level of understanding of the content, meaning, ritual, and sanctity of the service. Ultimately, the Worship Committee is responsible for ensuring that whoever leads our worship services, B’nai Mitzvot included, is well prepared and is able to do so competently, proficiently, and with respect for the occasion. The standards laid out in this policy are designed to help the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student prepare fully for a meaningful service, and to help the Worship Committee meet its obligation to provide meaningful services, led by those who are prepared.
During an early session of each new MMT Religious School year, the Worship Committee, in conjunction with the Religious School Principal and the Rabbi, will conduct a “Bar/Bat Mitzvah Orientation.” The orientation’s purpose will be to review and explain the MMT Guidelines for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and this MMT Policy for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation. All students, along with their parents, who hope to celebrate their Bar/Bat Mitzvah within the two upcoming years are required to attend the orientation.
Failure to attend “Bar/Bat Mitzvah Orientation” will require the family to meet at a later date with the same MMT representatives listed above, at MMT’s convenience. These families still must meet all timeline requirements, even if that means a delay in their participating in our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Setting a Date
The congregation fully supports and encourages students’ desires towards preparing for a meaningful and joyous Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration with their families and friends. The Rabbi and the Worship Committee must balance students’ needs with the needs of the congregation. Congregational events are planned a full year in advance, with utmost consideration given to holidays, other liturgical needs, and congregant needs.
In an effort to respect the needs of all parties, at any time, but at least 15 months prior to the anticipated Bar/Bat Mitzvah, families are required to meet with the Rabbi to discuss possible dates for the service. Families may request dates; however, those dates will be approved only when they do not conflict with other MMT scheduling. The Rabbi, in consultation with the Worship Committee when necessary, must approve all selected dates. IT IS IMPERATIVE that families do not book venues, send invitations, or make other plans that cannot be undone, prior to having the Rabbi approve the service date.
If a family requests a date that is less than 15 months in the future, the Rabbi must take that request to the Worship Committee for review. The Worship Committee will make exceptions based only on extreme circumstances. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, a family illness or death that caused either a delay in planning or a need to expedite planning, or an unforeseen relocation to or from the area. Regardless of the circumstances, the Worship Committee, in collaboration with the Rabbi, will make final decisions on all date exceptions.
To help facilitate this process, the Worship Committee, Principal, and Rabbi will conduct a “Bar/Bat Mitzvah Orientation – Session II,” approximately one month after the first orientation session each school year. This session will be held for parents of Bar/Bat Mitzvah students who do not yet have a date formally approved by the Rabbi. The purpose of “Orientation II” will be to document all proposed/desired dates, which the Rabbi will subsequently review. Within two months after “Orientation II,” the Rabbi will advise families of approval or concerns.
Preparing for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
The Rabbi recognizes that students have varying levels of educational abilities; therefore, the Rabbi will seek to understand each student’s abilities and will work with each family to set goals for the amount of leadership the student will take in the service. Regardless of what the student will undertake to do in the service, all students will have some common preparation requirements. Those fall into three categories: Service Attendance, Independent Study, and Study with the Rabbi.
Regular service attendance and participation helps students – and their families – become more comfortable and confident in the synagogue and with the content and rituals of the service. Regular attendance also demonstrates a commitment to, and seriousness about, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation.
During the preparation period prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, candidates are required to participate in a minimum of 18 worship services, 12 of which must be Saturday morning services. Students must attend four of these services, including two Saturday morning services, before their families will be allowed to set a date for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration.
* The Rabbi will not approve Bar/Bat Mitzvah dates until students have attended the four services, as detailed above, even if that means a delay in their participating in our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
* If a student is in danger of not meeting service attendance requirements, the Rabbi, in conjunction with the Worship Committee, will make a determination about delay or denial of the student participating in our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This decision can be made at any point in the preparation, but no later than the final assessment, three months prior to the service date.
In order to make consistent progress toward a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, students must show regular attendance, participation, and homework completion in their Religious School classes. The MMT principal and/or teachers will give feedback to the Rabbi regarding students’ abilities and commitment.
* A lack of serious commitment to the Religious School requirements listed above will result in a delay or denial of a student participating in our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
While the curriculum is designed to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to have a successful Bar/Bat Mitzvah, students also must put forth effort outside the classroom. MMT Religious School is not responsible for giving one-on-one attention to students to ensure their success; however, students are welcome and encouraged to make private arrangements for tutoring. All tutoring arrangements should be made with the prior knowledge and approval of the Rabbi and/or the Religious School Principal.
In addition, an integral part of the student’s effort will be preparation of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech, working closely with the Rabbi. Other evidence of the student’s commitment also will be needed, e.g., community service, Tz’dakah, etc.
Study with the Rabbi
During the six months prior to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah date, students are required to meet weekly with the Rabbi.
During the initial meeting, the following will occur:
• The Rabbi will meet with the student and parents together to discuss any concerns about progress, including the student’s progress towards meeting the service attendance requirement.
• The Rabbi will reaffirm the Worship Committee’s expectations, as stated in the MMT Guidelines for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and this MMT Policy for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation.
• Together, the Rabbi, parents, and student will set goals for the amount of leadership the student will take in the service.
Additionally, during this initial meeting, the family will be required to sign an agreement, committing to regular, weekly meeting dates over the following six months. The Worship Committee is aware of the numerous academic, athletic, and other secular commitments students may have. The committee is equally aware of the commitment required to lead a meaningful worship service and of the multiple demands on the
Rabbi’s schedule; therefore, families are required to work within the Rabbi’s schedule to fulfill this weekly study requirement.
By the time they begin meeting with the Rabbi, students are expected to be fairly fluent in reading Hebrew and familiar with the Saturday liturgy. If the Rabbi has stated concerns about students’ progress, those students will need to secure private tutoring to catch up. These weekly meetings with the Rabbi are not intended to serve as basic Hebrew tutoring. Instead, these sessions will focus mainly on learning the Torah and Haftorah portions, working on the essay or speech, and discussing the Tz’dakah or community service project.
Three months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date, the Rabbi will make a final assessment of students’ preparedness. If concerns remain, the Rabbi will
consult with the Worship Committee. Together, they have full authority to delay a student’s participation in our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah if the student – in the Rabbi’s view – will not be prepared adequately by the scheduled date.
Becoming A Bar/Bat Mitzvah
If students have met all requirements, they will feel confident and prepared to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at our worship service. The MMT Guidelines for Bar/Bat Mitzvah document tries to anticipate and answer most questions families have about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, Tz’dakah, and the celebration. But at any point, families are encouraged to discuss these topics in further detail with the Rabbi.
As stated at the beginning of this document, this policy is designed to clarify MMT Worship Committee expectations of Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their families during preparation for, and participation in, our worship service as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Families can take any questions and concerns to the Rabbi, the Religious School Principal, or the Worship Committee.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation Timeline
|Attend Orientation Session(s)||2 years before planned bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Prepare a general plan for meeting service attendance requirements (Participate in a minimum of 18 worship services, at least 12 on Saturday mornings)||begin 2 years before planned bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Attend 4 worship services, at least 2 on Saturday mornings||prior to confirming date with Rabbi|
|Confirm bar/bat mitzvah date with Rabbi||2 months after Orientation, or a minimum of 15 months prior to bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Parents and students attend initial expectations/assessment meeting with Rabbi||6 months prior to bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Prepare a detailed plan for completing remainder of service attendance requirements||6 months prior to bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Students begin weekly meetings with Rabbi||6 months prior to bar/bat mitzvah date|
|Parents and students attend final assessment meeting with Rabbi||3 months prior to bar/bat mitzvah date|