Q: I hear that Chabad's model is different than the typical Torah reading service...
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the perfect time for a maturing child to recognize that Judaism and spiritual thinking have lessons for real life. That's why we use this opportunity to explore Jewish Big Ideas which will stock the child's 'Jewish Toolbox'. Your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation will be an exploration of 12 passages from Biblical, Talmudic and Chassidic sources that articulate these Big Ideas and then he/she will read these passages (in the original Hebrew) at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Reading from the Torah is not a necessity for a Bar Mitzvah (contrary to popular opinion), so we prefer to direct the child's efforts into exploring ideas like Community, Purpose, Tenacity, Responsibility and Empathy (click HERE to see the full program)
Q: What was the impetus for Chabad to change its model from the accepted norm?
For many children, there's excitement and anticipation attached to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It's a time when a child is more easily incentivized to engage in Judaic life-lessons, and mature enough to understand them. We want to use this opportunity to the fullest. Since reading from the Torah requires the reader to devote a lot of time to rote memorization (the Torah scroll has no vowels, punctuation or musical notes), we prefer to spend this precious time on reading, conversing and understanding.
Q: Can you accommodate a typical service?
Yes. We can accommodate virtually any model your family prefers, as long as it remains within the parameters of Jewish Law. Please feel free to contact our Rabbis.
Q: What is the preparation process, and with whom will my child work?
We spend 8-12 months (depending on your child's Hebrew reading proficiency) exploring the readings with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Your child will meet once a week to pursue these studies. For three consecutive weeks, s/he will meet an assigned 'reading coach' (a member of our staff) to ensure smooth reading of the service texts. In the fourth week, your child will meet with one of the Rabbis to explore the texts' respective lessons for life.
Q: Is my child exprected to have a prior body of knowledge and skills?
A child needs no prior knowledge or skills in order to enter our Bar/Bat Mitzvah training. At the same time, a child's level of skill may determine whether he/she requires 8 months of study (our minimum) or 12 months (our maximum)
Q: What's the difference between boys' and girls' celebrations?
There is none!
Q: How will my non-Jewish guests feel?
Our service is mostly in English, and the Hebrew readings all have translations. The Rabbi explains all of the sections we read, and shows their relevance to day-today life. It's food for thought to a thinking person, your non-Jewish friend included!
Q: What's the family's role during the service?
Our 'Bar/Bat Mitzvah Service' isn't part of an actual prayer service, and is structured more as a Jewish celebration of family and friends. As such, there is much more leeway with regard to speeches, readings and presentations. This gives us a broad variety of opportunities for your entire family's involvement; we look forward to discussing the details with you.
Q: Is a Mitzvah Project part of the process?
Yes. A child's progress in Judaic self-development can't be isolated from his/her responsibility to the community at large. It's important for your child to undertake a socially-conscious project to begin his/her journey toward a socially-impactful life.