bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah planning guide
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Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah and Jewish Wedding Planning and Resource Guide

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Frequently Asked Questions
Question:
We just received our child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah date ...what is the first thing we should do?

Answer:
After speaking with your B’nai Mitzvah committee chair or coordinator about Synagogue rules, or consulting written policies and guidelines, discuss with your family the type of party everyone wants and what the budget will allow. Then start looking at photographers and the hall. These two services seem to need more time to secure. Check the Planning Time Table page.

Question:
How much will we, as parents, be asked to participate on the Bimah during the service?

Answer:
This question will have to be answered by your Rabbi or Synagogue staff. Depending on the Synagogue, some parents will make a speech, bless their child, or participate in the service. This is truly an honor and a pleasure–don’t let stage fright ruin this precious moment.

Question:
Should we choose an evening affair or an afternoon kiddish luncheon?

Answer:
Certainly, this will be a topic of discussion for the entire family. Often the choice has to do with how many out-of-town relatives you expect, the amount of money you want to spend, the size of the affair, and many other variables. Generally, it is more expensive to have an evening simcha, but an evening affair lends itself to a more formal atmosphere. You may want to offer a kiddish luncheon after the service for your guests or the entire congregation. In some synagogues, sponsoring a Kiddush luncheon and/or an Oneg Shabbat on Friday evening is expected. So, afternoon and evening events are not mutually exclusive, you could have both. Your family should discuss what type of public event you want to sponsor and what role food will play in that event.

Question:
How can we make our non-Jewish friends feel more comfortable at my Bar/Bat Mitzvah service?

Answer:
You may want to explain the service to them ahead of time. Rules regarding proper etiquette vary by synagogue, so ask staff or your Rabbi for Synagogue rules or policies. In some places kippot are required to be worn by all male visitors, for instance. You could explain that this does not make your guests Jewish, it is a sign of respect. Check with your Rabbi to be sure. See the feature on Bar/Bat Mitzvah Booklet on page 8. Also consult Jeffrey Salkin’s Putting G-d on the Guest List, which has an entire section on this subject, or How To Be A Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Handbook, by Arthur Magida, both for sale on bnaimitzvahguide.com.

Question:
What type of gift is appropriate for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child?

Answer:
If your child is attending their friend’s affair, generally a check in the amount of $36 (double Chai) is a nice gift (or a multiple of Chai - $18), depending on how close the friendship. Some families offer checks, tributes, donations, or purchase presents, again depending on whether it is a relative or friend, closeness of the two families, or how many people are attending from your family. Religious items, such as menorahs are also nice gifts. See the Gift Suggestions page.

Question:
What is the appropriate attire to wear to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

Answer:
At the Synagogue, wear whatever you would wear to a typical synagogue service. For the family of the bar/Bat Mitzvah, some families buy new clothing for the occasion. Remember to dress with appropriate respect for the house of worship you attend. If you have never been to Synagogue before, don't worry. Wear some nice clothes, perhaps what you might wear to church or at a wedding. No special garb is required that you cannot borrow at the synagogue, namely a kippot (or other head covering) and a tallit or prayer shawl, required for men only by some synagogues. If you have a simcha at night or the next day, dress according to the theme, place and tenor of the affair. Remember to instruct guests in the invitations if you have special dress requirements.If you are a guest, consult the wedding or Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitation, which should have dress instructions.

Question:
To what extent can members of other religious groups participate in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

Answer:
Typically, non-Jews can participate by simply attending, observing, and following the service. If relatives or close friends are not Jewish, they are sometimes afforded non-ritual honors. If you are concerned about involving a relative or close friend who is not Jewish, consult with your rabbi to find out what might be possible.

Question:
What is the difference between an aliyot and an honor?

Answer:
An aliyot is the plural of aliyah. One person is assigned one aliyah. The family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah may get to assign several aliyot. It means to come to the Torah and recite the blessings before and after a section of the Torah is read (b'rachot). An honor is a non-speaking part. The chosen person performs the honor, for example may open or close the Ark or dress the Torah.

Question:
If we can have a Bar Mitzvah on a Saturday, why can't we get married on Saturday?

Answer:
Well, you can, but after sunset, when Shabbat is officially over.
The issue isn't Saturday, it is Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

B'nai Mitzvot are celebrations conducted as part of regular services when the Torah is read aloud (Saturday morning). Jewish tradition recognizes that the Thirteen-year-old becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah independent of any celebration. The congregation is part of the ceremony: a young person takes full responsibility for their own religious obligations, starting with an aliyah for the reading of Torah, reciting the Sh'ma, leading the congregation in prayer, and presentation of D'var Torah. This coming of age is shared by the Jewish community and is therefore a public event. One that typically occurs on Saturday, but can also occur on other days when the Torah is read.

Weddings are private affairs that do not typically involve an entire congregation. And in contrast to the happy, celebratory nature of a wedding, Shabbat is a time for quiet reflection and for rest. A wedding is work, and it involves a legal contract, themes not suited for Shabbat. It is therefore rare to find a Rabbi who will marry a couple on Shabbat. Saturday after dark is OK, but Sunday is by far the popular day for Jewish weddings, especially during the Summer when dusk on Saturday is so late.

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