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.
SHEMA is a relatively small community and as such we have the flexibility to tailor and personalise the service to make it special for your family. We welcome members of the family (male and female) to partake or lead prayers in the service if they wish.
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.
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.
A Bar/Bat Mitzvah child will usually learn the Blessings for being called up to the Torah, learn to lein the Maftir, sing the Haftarah with the Haftarah blessings, and deliver a D’var Torah. S/he may also want to learn some or all of the remaining leining and/or lead some of the service.
We also run Aliyah, our education programme for Bnei Mitzvah children which runs from October to July. Participants in the programme are expected to finish the programme even if their Bar/Bat Mitzvah occurs during the cycle. The price for the programme is £120 which must be paid prior to attending.
According to Jewish tradition, you become Bar/Bat mitzvah upon reaching the age of thirteen / twelve 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.
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 Queen, 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.
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 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. However, to be part of the programme there is a charge which is currently £120 which must be paid prior to the programme started.
Torah Breakfast Launch
Tikkum Olam and Tselem Elohim
Mitzvah Day Volunteering
EBMC Chanukah Party
Chagim I (Chanukah, Purim, Pesach)
Please attend the service including Bat Mitzvah
All about Shabbat
Challah Bake (hosted by a participating family)
Key Jewish Texts and a look at the Torah
Visit to the Sofer Stam
Jewish Life Cycle (Brit Milah/Baby Blessing, Bnei Mitzvah, Wedding, Shiva)
Family Tree and Family Recipes (hosted by a participating family)
Chagim II (Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot)
Please attend the service including Bar Mitzvah