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B' Mitzvah Planning Guidelines and Logistics

Updated November, 2023

Mazel Tov!   

The B’ Mitzvah journey is a special time in the life of a Jewish teen and their family. It is a time for a young adult to learn more about oneself, including their ability to lead, teach, and feel connected to their Jewish identity. It is a time for teens to feel embraced by their community and develop confidence and pride in their accomplishments throughout the process.  

As we know, this experience requires a lot of time and energy from the whole family. We want to support you throughout that journey. The guidelines in the following pages aim to simplify and clarify various aspects of the process in order hopefully to enable your focus to primarily be on the experience and journey of your teen.  

Some of what’s described below may not be familiar to you at first. We encourage you and your teen to attend a few B’ Mitzvah services before your own to become acquainted with the flow of the service and to see how other families mark this significant life milestone. You are always welcome at these services, Onegs and Kiddush luncheons. No need to RSVP – just come! The Temple Sinai calendar and e-news indicate when there is a B’ Mitzvah service on Shabbat.  

Contact Information for B’ Mitzvah Support Team 
The Temple Sinai professionals listed here are most closely associated with the B’ Mitzvah journey. If you’re not sure who to contact with your question, please feel free to reach out to any of us and we will point you in the right direction. Cantor Ilene Keys coordinates our B’ Mitzvah Program, working closely with all the members of the B’ Mitzvah support team. Her work includes oversight of our team of tutors, meeting with families for check-in and support along the way, creation and maintenance of our calendar of services, creation of individual B’ Mitzvah preparation materials, and providing all-around help as questions and needs arise.  

Cantor Keys also meets with each student after they have completed their lessons with the B’ Mitzvah tutor to review all the prayers and blessings, learn and review the individual Torah and Haftarah portions and prepare leading the entire service from the prayer book both in English and in Hebrew.   Rabbi Jackie Mates-Muchin and Rabbi Julie Bressler work with our students in the crafting of a meaningful D’var Torah (“Torah Teaching”), facilitate the rehearsals and run-throughs before the B’ Mitzvah service, and provide guidance and support for families when questions/needs arise.   Hadas Rave is our Education Director. She works closely with our 6th-7th grade educators and gets to know our students to ensure a meaningful and enriching community experience.  Betsy Bigelow-Teller is our Administrative Coordinator. Betsy helps to calendar B’ Mitzvah meetings with the clergy, creates individual B’ Mitzvah programs and materials, and helps with building rentals and usage. 

Rizwan Mir (“Mir”) is our Event & Facilities Coordinator. Mir coordinates all details related to space usage at the Temple and can support you as you plan your celebration, as well as coordinate drop off and pick up of items before and after your simcha. 

Logistics for Friday Evening and Saturday Morning Services  

Friday Evening Service:  

  • It is traditional for the B’ Mitzvah family to attend the Friday evening service in person on the night before the B’ Mitzvah. This sets an intention for the weekend and generally helps the child to feel more comfortable on the Bimah the next day.  
  • Please arrive at the temple by 6:15pm to get settled before the service begins. 
  • Your family will be invited to light the Shabbat candles on the Bimah and the Cantor will sing the candle blessing. Then the B’ Mitzvah student will lead kiddush and the rest of the family is invited to stay on the Bimah while they lead. 
  • We will invite your family to join us in the blessing over the challah at the end of the service after the closing song.    

Friday Evening Oneg
Temple Sinai provides a basic Oneg after services on Friday Evening. If you wish to bring something special for the Oneg, please do! Food with a personal touch is always a wonderful addition. Please let Betsy know if you plan to bring something additional so you can coordinate drop-off.   Saturday Morning Service:  The service begins promptly at 10:30am. Immediately prior to the start of the service, the clergy will invite the immediate B’ Mitzvah family into Stern Hall for a private family blessing. Please plan to arrive no later than 10:00am Saturday morning to allow your family ample time to settle in before the service begins. Please make sure to bring your student’s B’ Mitzvah binder, speech and all materials pertaining to the B’ Mitzvah, including your student’s Tallit. 

Photography 

You may enter the building as early as 9am to take photos. Please coordinate this in advance with the Facilities Manager. Your photographer is allowed to take pictures during the service, but must be stationary in the back balcony of the Sanctuary, or at the back of Albers Chapel, and use a shutter that is as silent as possible. Pictures must wrap up by 10:15am as guests will be arriving around that time. 

Program  

We provide a printed program for all in attendance at the Saturday morning service. The program includes a list of those participating. You will talk about service honors with the Rabbi during your initial family meeting. The program also includes thank you messages from the B’ Mitzvah student, and a 100-word welcome from the B’ Mitzvah’s parents/guardians that may also include a brief introduction of your child. It can be descriptive of who they are and the kinds of things they do, like, and care about. You can see a sample of a program on the B’ Mitzvah page of our website. Please indicate the number of copies needed. If your service will be livestreamed, please forward the program PDF to those attending virtually. 

Service Livestream Link for Albers Chapel Service 

If you are holding your service in Albers Chapel, we will provide the B’ Mitzvah service livestream link and password to the B’ Mitzvah family to share with their guests. Temple members will be able to access the livestream link from the Temple Sinai website Home page. Livestream is not currently available in the Sanctuary. 

Flowers For Bima, Carnation Heads  

B’ Mitzvah families can provide a flower arrangement for the front of the bimah and for the traditional, celebratory throwing of carnation heads at the end of the service. Both are optional.   If you wish to provide flowers for the Bimah, please contact Betsy for height specifications and delivery details.  Carnation heads for throwing at the B’ Mitzvah at the end of the service can be brought with the floral arrangement. Please note that no other flowers or candy will be allowed for this purpose.  

Parents’ Blessing (Speech)  

Our service opens with a song and then some words from the student’s parents. This is not intended to be a description of who your child is. Rather, it should say something to them about why this milestone is important to you, and what you hope it means to your child. It is usually about 200 words per parent. You can read a sample of a parent’s blessing here. 

Tallitot  

After the parents’ blessing is shared, the parents (or another honored guest) will present a Tallit to the student. Tallitot can be found at Afikomen, a Judaica store in Berkeley, online, or you can contact the Women of Temple Sinai to view their collection. Some families choose to use a family Tallit. When buying a Tallit online, make sure it is from a Jewish store or collection. Some Tallitot purchased online (especially those that are inexpensive) do not use the proper Hebrew for the blessing. If you are unsure if the Tallit you are selecting is appropriate, please reach out to one of the clergy.  

Family and Friend Participation  

There are a number of honors during the service in which you can ask friends and family members to participate.  

  • Ark Opening/Closing: Two people are needed to open and close the ark when the Torah is taken out of the ark, and two people will open and close the ark when the Torah is put away. They can be the same people or different people. They do not have to be Jewish. 
  • Torah Passing: Jewish grandparents and all parents are invited to participate in the Torah passing.  
  • Dressing/Undressing the Torah: Two people are needed to undress the Torah at the start of the Torah service, and two will dress the Torah at the end of the Torah service. They do not have to be Jewish.  
  • Aliyah/Aliyot: One of the highest honors in the service is reciting the Torah blessings. The Torah portion your teen will chant will be broken into smaller pieces, called aliyot. A blessing will be recited before and after each aliyah is chanted by your teen from the Torah. This blessing is also known as an aliyah. The number of aliyot each student chants is determined by your teen’s study with the Cantor. There must be at least one Jewish person in every group of people reciting a Torah blessing and all must be 13 or over. You can find the text of the blessing here and hear a recording for the Blessing Before the Torah here or the Blessing After the Torah here 

Motzi: This one-line blessing is offered at the end of the service. While anyone of any age can be invited for this honor, it is a nice space to honor younger siblings or cousins. 

Kiddush Cup  

Your child will receive a personalized kiddush cup as a gift from Women of Temple Sinai and the Temple Sinai Brotherhood. It will be presented to them near the end of the service by the board member representative.

Kiddush Luncheons  
  • The B’ Mitzvah family may use Stern Hall without charge from the end of the service (around 12:00pm or 12:15pm) to 2:00pm for their Kiddush luncheon. If a family wishes to extend the luncheon or use additional spaces, approval is required and there will be an additional fee to cover custodial and security costs.  
  • The B’ Mitzvah family can serve light refreshments, a buffet luncheon or a seated meal. Please include enough for 10-15 Temple Sinai members who regularly attend the morning service, in addition to your family and friends.  
Inclusion of 7th Grade Classmates 

The B’ Mitzvah is a wonderful individual and family milestone, one that families understandably want to share with extended family and friends. It is also a meaningful event for the Temple community. In an effort to help every member of the community feel included, we ask that you invite the members of the 7th grade class to the service and the celebration. When you attend a service for a classmate, please remember that gifts are not necessary, unless you are very close to the student and their family.  

B’ Mitzvah Fee

The B’ Mitzvah fee is determined annually and will be communicated to families prior to billing one year before your simcha. Contact us at templesinai@oaklandsinai.org with any questions.

Contributions  

Some families choose to contribute to the rabbi’s and cantor’s discretionary funds as a sign of appreciation. The clergy use these funds in various ways including supplementing Temple programs, aiding individuals in need, and supporting larger community activities. Some families may also choose to donate to other Temple funds. The Temple encourages families to consider donating 3% of the total cost of the B’ Mitzvah to a non-profit.    If you have any questions, please contact us at templesinai@oaklandsinai.org.

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