FAQ’s | Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?

A Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony for Jewish children. Bar Mitzvah is for boys and Bat Mitzvah is for girls. The ceremony marks the child’s transition from childhood to adulthood, and their newfound responsibility to observe Jewish law and tradition.

What services do you offer for Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs?

As a Rabbi, I offer a range of services for Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, including personalized Torah readings, blessings, and guidance on how to perform mitzvahs (good deeds). I also offer pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah training, where I work with the child to prepare them for their special day.

What areas do you serve for Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs?

While I perform Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs nationwide, my focus is on serving the local communities of NY, NJ, and CT. I have worked with families throughout the tri-state area and am happy to travel to your location to help make your child’s special day a memorable one.

What is your approach to interfaith Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs?

I believe that every child, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to celebrate their coming of age in a meaningful way. As a Rabbi who specializes in interfaith services, I work closely with families to create a ceremony that honors both their Jewish traditions and the unique aspects of their family’s faith and culture.

How far in advance should I book your services?

I recommend booking my services as soon as possible, as my schedule can fill up quickly. Ideally, you should book at least six months in advance to ensure availability. However, if you have a last-minute need for my services, I will do my best to accommodate your request.

What is the significance of a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah in Jewish tradition?

The bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah represents the first time a person is called to the Torah.  To be called to the Torah, one must be responsible for all the commandments that are incumbent upon an adult Jew.  Prior to the age of majority, a child is not responsible or obligated to observe the commandments.  Therefore, a child cannot be called to the Torah.  This tradition began as a simple first time being called for an Aliyah and gradually took on greater lifecycle importance.

How do we prepare for a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah ceremony?

Bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah is the culmination of a period of study that involves Hebrew reading/language, study of Judaism, holidays, history and mitzvot.

What is the age at which a boy becomes a bar mitzvah?

A boy becomes bar mitzvah at the age of 13.  This happens automatically and while no special observance is required, the practice of becoming a bar mitzvah became popular in the middle ages.

What is the age at which a girl becomes a bat mitzvah?

While a boy becomes bar mitzvah at the age of 13, the original tradition for girls was to have a bat mitzvah ceremony at the age of 12.  Both of these ages (for boys and girls) correspond to the beginning of puberty and, therefore, the beginning of the actual transition from childhood into adulthood.  Today, girls generally become bat mitzvah at the age of 13.

Can a bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah ceremony be held at a location other than a synagogue?

The only requirement for a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony is that there is a Torah and a minyan.  A minyan is the required number of adults for public prayer and public reading of the Torah.  There is nothing intrinsically holy about a synagogue and throughout history, more often than not, Jews have not had synagogues to go to.

What prayers and blessings are recited during a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah service?

A child will always recite the Shema at his/her bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah.  This is known as the watchword of our faith as it articulates Judaism’s monotheistic beliefs.  Additionally, a child will be called to the Torah and will always recite the two Torah blessings.  The service is the traditional Shabbat service which includes the Tefilla prayer as well.

What is the Torah portion typically read during a bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah?

The Torah portion that is read at a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah is the one for that particular week.  Every week gets a new Torah portion and the Torah is divided into 54 weekly portions.  The exact number of weeks in a year in the Hebrew calendar may be different depending on whether the year is a leap year or not.  The Judaic calendar months are lunar months that are either 29 or 30 days each.  The Torah is read in a sequential manner.

How long does a typical bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah ceremony last?

The duration of a typical Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah ceremony can vary depending on several factors, including the specific customs of the synagogue, the family’s preferences, and the extent of additional celebrations. In general, the religious ceremony itself usually lasts about 1 to 2 hours. During this time, the young Bar or Bat Mitzvah will typically read a portion of the Torah, receive blessings, and may also deliver a speech.

After the religious ceremony, many families host a celebratory meal or party, which can add several hours to the overall event. These festivities can range from a few hours to an all-day affair, with dancing, music, and speeches So, the total duration of a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah event, including the religious service and post-ceremony celebrations, can range from 2 to 8 hours or more, depending on the family’s preferences and the extent of the festivities.

Are there specific dress code requirements for a bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah?

Dress codes in synagogues may differ depending on the traditions of the synagogue.  I have no such requirements.

What is the role of the rabbi during a bar/bat mitzvah?

The role of the rabbi is to lead the ceremony and provide an interpretation of the week’s Torah portion as well as to explain the meaning of bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah.

Are non-Jewish family members allowed to participate in a bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah ceremony?

In a synagogue or temple, the role of non-Jewish family members may differ depending on the affiliation such as Reform or Conservative as well as the traditions of that particular congregation.  I have provided an egalitarian approach to my ceremonies which includes a translation of the Torah blessing that renders it universal so anyone can be called to the Torah regardless of religious background.

What is the significance of the tallit (prayer shawl) during a bar/bat mitzvah?

The tallit is a symbol of the commandments.  The significance of it is in the fringes (tzitzit) which are knotted in a way as to represent the 613 commandments contained in the Torah.

What is the meaning of the bar/bat mitzvah candle lighting ceremony?

The candle lighting ceremony is not a part of the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony but included often in the reception as a way of honoring those in the family as well as some friends who have meant so much to the bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl.

Are there any restrictions on the types of gifts that can be given for a bar/bat mitzvah?

There are no restrictions on gifts.  It is traditional when giving money to give a sum that represents a multiple of “Chai” (meaning “life”).  Numbers in Hebrew are represented by letters and the two letters in the word “Chai” equal 18 so a gift of $180 or any other multiple is often made.

Can a bar/bat mitzvah be celebrated on a day other than Saturday?

In traditional circles it is customary to have a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony on Mondays and Thursdays as the Torah is traditionally read on those days as well as Shabbat.  Sometimes a Sunday may be appropriate if it coincides with Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month, which is also a day the Torah is traditionally read.

How can we incorporate personal touches into a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony?

My ceremonies are all created on a computer program which allows me to create any kind of ceremony the family wishes and to include special readings and other personal touches.

Are there any specific traditions associated with a bar/bat mitzvah celebration?

The only requirement to Bar/Bat Mitzvah is to be called to the Torah for the first time.  I have performed ceremonies for children with special needs and their participation is often limited to simply being called to the Torah to recite the blessings before and after the Torah reading.

What is the importance of the bar/bat mitzvah speech?

A Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah speech is often related to the Torah portion known as a “D’var Torah”.  It is an opportunity for the child to teach the congregation something about the Torah portion for that week and to relate it to themselves in some manner.

What are some common mistakes to avoid during a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony?

The biggest common mistake or, really rather, misconception is that the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony must take place in a synagogue.  Holiness is defined by people not place and anytime there is a minyan (10 adults present) the Torah can be read and public prayer can take place regardless of the location.

Can a child with special needs have a bar/bat mitzvah?

Yes!  My ceremonies are catered to all.  Whatever the child’s strengths are, that will be the focus.  Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah has nothing to do with ability, it has to do with coming of age.  Simply being called to the Torah to recite a blessing is sufficient for one to symbolically become a bar mitzvah.  No special observance is even needed to become a bar/bat mitzvah.

What are the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism?

There are many differences between the various denominations of Judaism.  They differ by way of adherence to traditions and belief.  My bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah ceremonies are based on the Reform tradition, but I often incorporate more traditional elements should the family so choose.

How does Jewish law apply to bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies in different denominations?

Jewish law states that a boy automatically becomes a bar mitzvah at the age of 13 and a girl becomes bat mitzvah at the age of 12 by merit of age.  The ages are based on the average age for the onset of puberty.  This applies across all denominations.

Are there any differences in the ceremony for boys and girls in different Jewish denominations?

In Orthodox Judaism a girl may not be called to the Torah.  The Torah contains all the laws that are incumbent upon a Jewish adult to observe.  In Orthodoxy, only males are responsible for all the Mitzvot (commandments).  Therefore, only males may be called to recite the blessings over the Torah.  Reform Judaism as well as Conservative Judaism are egalitarian and girls, no different than boys, may be called to the Torah.

Can a non-Jewish parent or family member speak during a bar/bat mitzvah service?

Non-Jewish parents and family members are always welcome to participate in my bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah ceremonies.  They may address the child, read a passage, be a part of the passing of the Torah and even be called to the Torah to recite the blessings in an egalitarian English version.

How can interfaith families incorporate both religions into a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony?

Interfaith families now constitute the majority of families for whom I perform bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies.  Sensitivity to other religious traditions is an important part of my ceremonies for families that are looking for something that is more universalistic.  Receiving a blessing from someone of another faith tradition or adding a particular reading, is something that I have included in the past.

Are there any specific rituals or prayers for interfaith bar/bat mitzvahs?

While there are no specific rituals or prayers that I customarily include when a child is from two faith backgrounds, I keep the language as universal as possible to be sensitive to the fact that a child is of two religious backgrounds.

Can a bar/bat mitzvah be held in a non-denominational synagogue?

A bar/bat mitzvah ceremony can be held anywhere.  It doesn’t need to be in a synagogue of any kind.  It can take place in a catering hall, restaurant, club house, or backyard.

What are some popular destinations for bar/bat mitzvah trips?

Destination bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs as become quite popular.  Of course, some people choose Israel but what could be lovelier than a bar/bat mitzvah in the Caribbean or even in Hawaii?

Destination bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs as become quite popular.  Of course, some people choose Israel but what could be lovelier than a bar/bat mitzvah in the Caribbean or even in Hawaii?

What are some popular destinations for bar/bat mitzvah trips?

Destination bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs as become quite popular.  Of course, some people choose Israel but what could be lovelier than a bar/bat mitzvah in the Caribbean or even in Hawaii?

Destination bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs as become quite popular.  Of course, some people choose Israel but what could be lovelier than a bar/bat mitzvah in the Caribbean or even in Hawaii?

How can I involve family members who cannot attend the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony?

Involving family members in a bar/bat mitzvah is a traditional aspect of the ceremony.  I offer special readings that can be read during the ceremony by parents, siblings and grandparents.  Additionally, there are aliyot, passing of the Torah, undressing and dressing of the Torah, presentation of the tallit and other ways that family members can participate in this wonderful occasion.

How can we handle the financial aspects of a bar/bat mitzvah celebration?

A bar/bat mitzvah does not need to be expensive.  I have participated in my share of lavish celebrations, but it has become more common nowadays to hold a much simpler celebration.  The fee for my services is modest and, of course, there is no requirement that the family belongs to a synagogue or temple.

What are some appropriate gifts to give a bar/bat mitzvah child?

Unless one knows what the child wants as a gift or the parents have made a special request, money gifts are just fine.  Often a multiple of “Chai” (the number 18) are traditionally given.

Can a child who has converted to Judaism have a bar/bat mitzvah?

Many years ago the Reform movement accepted patrilineality as equal to matrilineality.  In other words, a child with a Jewish father but a non-Jewish mother is regarded as Jewish no less than the other way around.  This was a big departure from Jewish law that always defined a Jew by the religion of the mother.  I have performed ceremonies for children who were adopted by Jewish parents and they chose to convert their child to Judaism.  A convert to Judaism is a Jew, no less than someone born a Jew.