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B'Nei Mitzvah 

These guidelines have been written by the synagogue to assist parents in all aspects of planning a Bar mitzvah or Bat mitzvah for their child.

The First Step

Bar/Bat Mitzvah can only normally take place at SHEMA if the family are members of the shul.


If you would like to hold a Bar/Bar Mitzvah at SHEMA, contact should be made as soon as possible with the synagogue.  Please email us here.

SHEMA’s Bnei mitzvah co-coordinator will contact the parents with a confirmation of the date and to offer any help that may be needed. The co-coordinator is available at any time prior to the Bar/Bat mitzvah to answer questions.


It is customary for a Bat Mitzvah to be held on the Shabbat after your daughter’s 12th Hebrew birthday and a Bar Mitzvah to take place on the Shabbat after your son’s 13th Hebrew birthday.  At this point they are considered adult and are counted in a minyan

Although this date is the usual custom, a child can have their Bar/Bat Mitzvah anytime after these dates.  Girls may choose to have their Bat Mitzvah on their 13th Hebrew Birthday, particularly if they are born in September / October as at 12 this can be a stressful time starting secondary school.  

Additionally, birthdates may coincide with fast days, the Omer, or other times that are unsuitable for personal reasons.

Please ask if you are unsure.

What does a Bar /Bat Mitzvah do in a Masorti shul?

SHEMA is an egalitarian community and we do not have different expectations for boys and girls.

According to Jewish tradition, you become Bar/Bat mitzvah upon reaching the age of twelve/thirteen years and one day. On reaching this age you are considered an adult and are counted in a minyan, irrespective of what is done in shul. 


If your child is unable to learn the Maftir or Haftarah, we will work with you to ensure your child works within their abilities.  We will help you celebrate this milestone whatever your child is able to do.  We especially encourage children with special needs and will work out a suitable programme with the family.

All B’nei Mitzvah will be presented with a gift from the Community and a certificate.

What if another family have a child who reaches Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the same week?

SHEMA is still a small community and it is rare that this will happen.  However, it is possible for two or more children to reach their Bar/Mitzvah age on the same shabbat.  If both families wanted to have their celebration on the same Shabbat then this would mean that leining / haftarah would be shared by agreement as well as all the other synagogue arrangements.  However, as already mentioned above you can choose to have your Bar/Bat Mitzvah in shul any time after the 12/13th birthday and you may prefer to choose a different Shabbat.


We are able to recommend a number of teachers to you.

Generally, you should approach a teacher 1 year to 18 months before the proposed date, but this can vary from as little as 6 months if Hebrew reading is fluent to up to 2 years if your child cannot read any Hebrew.  If you are unsure it is better to approach a teacher early for an assessment.


Bar/Bat mitzvahs can be held at the shul.

Synagogue attendance

Regular attendance at Saturday morning services is expected in the year running up to the event.  If attendance is not regular, SHEMA will, in the first instance, contact the family and reserve the right not to conduct the ceremony.  Attendance is also required on on all Festivals.

Families are expected to participate in security and Kiddush rotas.


These are the honours given out during the service: being called up to the Torah; opening and closing the ark; reading the prayer for the King, State of Israel etc. You can choose members of your family and close friends to take these honours, although a couple of honours should be left for other members of the community or people commemorating a Yahrzeit.  In a small community, this makes the service very special for the family.

Anim Zemirot

A nice tradition is for Anim Zemirot to be sung by a younger member of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s family if there is one.


It is customary for the family to provide a kosher Kiddush for the community. Please liaise with us nearer the time and we will discuss the numbers expected.  We have various options available for the Kiddush so please discuss this with us


SHEMA would be delighted to receive a donation of money or a presentation to the synagogue in honour of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. 


SHLOSH ESREY שׁלֹשׁ עֵשִׂרֶה

Our Bnei Mitzvah programme is called Shlosh Esrey which is the number 13 in Hebrew. Of course, 13 is the year that our children celebrate their Bnei Mitzvah but it has other areas of Jewish significance.

  • 13 attributes that God showed when we were forgiven for building the golden calf,

  •  13 principles of the Jewish faith and we sing about at the end of our Pesach Seder in the final verse of echad mee yodaya,

  • 13 Yom Tov days in our Jewish diaspora calendar 

  • 13 children of Jacob (12 tribes + Dina)


For our Bnei Mitzvah programme, the number 13 has different significance as we are going to ask you and your children to engage Jewishly in 13 different ways in preparation for their Bnei Mitzvah.


The programme will have certain core and personalised elements.

  • Core elements are the ones we ask everyone to attend so we can  build a sense of cohort and community. These will include explanatory services at shul, attending services (especially each other’s Bnei Mitzvahs), Bnei Mitzvah breakfasts with learning and discussion, meetings.  On weeks when we have our Torah Breakfasts they will start at 9:30-10:30 and then we’ll do some food and then ask parents to come and join their children in the main service.

  • Personalised elements will offer experiential education, such as trips to the Jewish East End, festival baking, volunteering or creating charity projects. They could also include projects that you do at home e.g creating a family tree or learning to cook shabbat dinner for your family.


We ask you to attend as many of the core activities as possible. With your child, you can select a number of the personalised ones or come up with other ideas that feel relevant to their Bnei Mitzvah, but there should be 13 events or activities in total. The programme dates can be received by contacting


Some children will have their Bnei Mitzvah celebration in the coming months, whilst others are 2 years away but we very much hope that they will continue with the meetings even beyond their Simcha to support their peers and their cohort.


There is a cost of £130 for the programme to cover resources and teaching and on occasions we may have to ask for another small amount to cover trips or special activities but we will do our best to keep the costs low.


Please do not allow this fee to be a barrier to your engagement and please contact us if it is.


We will ask you to let us know who is attending the events but it won’t be possible to run sessions if there are fewer than 4 people at any given event, so we will need early sign-up and commitment from you.


We really hope these 13 ways will succeed in further connecting you and your child to your Jewish traditions and our SHEMA community, thereby giving them the opportunity to have a truly meaningful journey towards their Bnei Mitzvah.

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