B’nai Mitzvah Guidelines

Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a Hebrew idiom meaning “one responsible for the mitzvah.” The term “B’nai” is the gender-neutral term for the plural of “Bar” and “Bat.” It refers to a person who has reached the age of responsibility for observing and fulfilling the mitzvot, the commandments, that God expects that we observe and honour as Jews. The young person preparing for Bar/Bat Mitzvah will learn to fulfill the mitzvot of leading the congregation in blessing, reading, and teaching Torah. *Note: the word “mitzvah” does not mean “a good deed or a good thing”. The ceremony marks a special time in a young person’s life. It is a celebration marking a person’s acceptance of their Jewish responsibilities as a full member of the community. Once a child has become a Bar or a Bat mitzvah, they are considered as an adult in Judaism and can now be counted towards a minyan (a prayer quorum), lead a service, and be called to the Torah (for an aliyah or to read/chant) for the rest of their lives. It is not intended to be an excuse for a party, or a celebration marking the end of one’s Jewish education. Judaism has always held the values of education and knowledge high; the achievement of Bar or Bat Mitzvah is but one of many steps along the way as a Jewish adult. At Am Shalom we want to encourage lifelong involvement in the greater Jewish community, and have established these guidelines to help families and children prepare and plan for the event. B’nai Mitzvah take place during a regularly scheduled Shabbat morning service, when the whole community is present.

Preparation for b’nai mitzvah

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah date will be arranged in consultation with the tutor and the synagogue office. The actual preparation for a Bar/Bat mitzvah begins with the earliest exposure of a young person to the life of the congregation, and continues through religious school and all the worship experiences of a young lifetime. Elements in the process will almost certainly include:

  • Continuation of studies in Am Shalom’s Religious School. A student who is preparing for B’nai Mitzvah is still expected to be enrolled in, and regularly attend, Shabbat morning Religious School classes until the conclusion of Grade Eight.
  • Private tutoring to learn the Torah and Haftarah blessings and how to chant your child’s particular Torah portion. The Haftorah may be chanted in Hebrew or read in Hebrew or English. During these private lessons, each student will also learn how to sing the following prayers: Ashrei, Shma and Ve’ahavta, and Adon Olam. They will lead the congregation in these prayers during Shabbat services, on the morning that they become Bat/Bat Mitzvah. This tutoring will begin at least 7 months before the Bar/Bar Mitzvah date and will be held weekly at the synagogue or via Skype. Arrangements for either in person or remote lessons will be made directly with the tutor.
  • Regular attendance at Shabbat and holiday services at Am Shalom – very important!
  • Working with the rabbi to prepare a D’var Torah (“lesson from the Torah”), which will be presented to the congregation during the service.
  • Fulfilling the “Eilu Devarim Thirteen Mitzvot Program” in the year leading up to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
  • In order for the child to feel comfortable during services, candidates are asked to attend regularly scheduled Shabbat or holiday services.

Educational requirements

In order to ensure a confident, prepared, and successful B’nai Mitzvah student, regular attendance at Am Shalom’s Religious School is required for at least three consecutive years leading up to B’nai Mitzvah (or its equivalent elsewhere. Am Shalom’s Religious School will educate your child about the Jewish holidays, customs, prayer, history, Jewish culture, Israel, and tikkun olam. Continuation of studies in Am Shalom’s Religious School throughout preparation for Bar or Bat Mitzvah is required.  Students are still expected to be enrolled in, and regularly attend, Shabbat morning Religious School classes until the conclusion of Grade Eight.

Membership requirements 

The family of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate should be members in good standing of Am Shalom.


Fees for private tutoring to prepare each student for Bat/Bat Mitzvah are outlined in the dues schedule of the membership form. Tutoring begins at least 7 months before the Bar/Bar Mitzvah date. The office, the rabbi and the tutor assume your child will be available each week once lessons begin, but are prepared to be somewhat flexible due to public school vacation schedules, overnight camp, and family vacations.