October 2, 2023 -
We encourage a live, public conversation about the meaning to be found in B’nai Mitzvah, and input from students, parents and grandparents, teachers, and all who can share a thoughtful approach with us to bringing new and intensified meaning to this experience at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. See below for Cantor Sager’s direct invitation for input, share posts here on “If Not Now, When?” our interactive blog, or join Cantor Sager, Michelle Krantz, and the temple’s lifelong learning committee on April 10 at 7:00p.m. in our Lelyveld Center for Jewish Learning, to add your input to this exciting revolution.
In the fall, we wrote that Fairmount Temple had been chosen as one of a few pilot Reform congregations for a project called B’nai Mitzvah Revolution.
Since then, a diverse team from our synagogue has been discussing, exploring, debating, and wrestling with what it means to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in today’s Jewish world. I have led this team together with our Religious School director, a teacher, a tutor, a Religious School parent, a recent Bat Mitzvah celebrant, and one of our rabbis. We’ve sought for B’nai Mitzvah experiences shared at our temple to grow in meaning and impact for all our students and families. We have considered every aspect: from the Religious School preparations to the special programs we offer, to the Torah and Haftarah portions we ask students to learn, to the tutoring in which each student participates, to the D’var Torah each student prepares, to the aftermath of the experience and its enduring impact. Our discussions have been open, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable as we’ve looked carefully at our current program.
The most exciting part of our deliberations is our discovery that by talking about our goals and dreams for the B’nai Mitzvah experience, we’ve identified our most important values and priorities, such as the high value we place on each student’s achievement and blessing before the sacred Torah scroll. One thing has become clear: As we seek to make real the goals of the dictum from Pirke Avot: “The world stands on three things: Torah, worship and deeds of loving kindness”, there is no part of our congregational life that will be untouched! We are starting to make recommendations to the congregation in the educational realm, but what we do will affect all areas of our endeavor. Even as we are talking about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience,we can already see how the years leading up to this milestone and the years following are as important as the experience itself! In addition, we have discerned with other congregations that when the entire family feels invested in the Bar or Bat Mitzvah process, it has more meaning for everyone.
This is why we are going to experiment with having every Bar or Bat Mitzvah student consider their opportunity to insert something of themselves into the experience. The exact form that might take is under discussion. Examples might be more creative means to present a D’var Torah through new expressions such as dance or art. A new emphasis might be offered in terms of creative prayer and involvement in student mitzvah projects. We are not trying to revise the many things we do which are already impactful to our students and families.
However, we feel that a better means to truly know each student in advance of the B’nai Mitzvah, an emphasis on the types of individual qualities we are trying to nourish in all our learners, and a more strategic use of our energies in the 8th grade year following most of our B’nai Mitzvahwill help us more meaningfully engage each individual!
Our team has generated many new ideas. But before we proceed, we want to check-in with you.
We want to hear your thoughts! We need you to be a part of this process to maximize our impact.
Please join me and Michele Krantz, Lifelong Learning Committee chairperson, and other committee members on Wednesday, April 10, at 7 p.m. in the Lelyveld Center for Jewish Learning. We want to hear from you, our parents and families, on how we might better shape our B’nai Mitzvah, educational and lifelong learning program to meet your needs and raise your aspirations.