Becoming B’nai Mitzvah

Many Talmud Torah students will choose to become b’nai mitzvah at TBI. Our goal is for our b’nai mitzvah students to be able to confidently declare “Hineini!” (“Here I am!”) and understand and demonstrate what it means to them personally to be a Jewish adult.  This may look different for each student. They are all encouraged to focus on one or more of the following pathways to Jewish literacy and identity as they choose their course of study during their years in Talmud Torah.

(Mind) Torah

Includes Torah study and analysis, learning Hebrew, and a clear understanding of the key stories and themes in Judaism.

(Heart) Avodah

Focuses on fluency and ease with songs and blessings used in services and everyday life so that students are able to confidently lead parts of services, and be actively Jewish in daily life.

(Hands) G’milut Chasidim

Features learning about Jewish values and ethics including tikkun olam efforts and mitzvot-based activities.

(Body) K’lal Israel

Explores what makes Jews “a people,” including cooking, cultural traditions, crafts, Jewish history, Israel, and/or contemporary Jewish issues.

To become b’nai mitzvah at TBI, students must be at least 13 and have earned a minimum of 36 credits from a combination of Sunday morning Cohort, Hebrew and JEWL classes (see the Talmud Torah Learning & Curriculum page for more information about those classes).

Students must take a minimum of 12 total credits in the two years before becoming b’nai mitzvah. This means that even students who have acquired many credits in elementary school, are still expected to be actively engaged in Talmud Torah leading up to becoming b’nai mitzvah.

We recommend that students begin with our Sunday morning cohort class in kindergarten to build community and then, beginning in second grade earn an average of six credits a year (or two credits a term) towards becoming b’nai mitzvah-ready.  Students who start later may need to take more classes at a time. Students who are busy with many other activities may need to take fewer classes some terms and more classes others to work around their personal scheduling needs. Some of our students will be ready to become b’nai mitzvah at 13. Some will be ready at 14 or even older, and that’s okay. They may continue taking classes until they are ready to do so. Students are ready to be called to the Torah and become b’nai mitzvah when they know what it means to them to be Jewish and have enough foundation for continued learning to make saying “Hineini” meaningful.

It is not possible to accrue the credits necessary to become b’nai mitzvah at TBI in fewer than three years. New students to Talmud Torah will not start in Kita Vav or Zion, regardless of age (unless they have participated in religious school elsewhere).

Families may request dates for b’nai mitzvah services in the summer prior to Kita Vav (6th grade). Students are assigned dates for their b’nai mitzvah services by that late summer/early fall after meeting with the religious school director and submitting the necessary paperwork. We do not accept requests or assign dates before that time.

The Talmud Torah office tracks student progress and communicates this to parents three times a year during Kita Vav and Zion. Students who are not making appropriate progress and/or showing committed participation will likely be asked to postpone b’nai mitzvah dates.

You can view detailed information about all things related to the b’nai mitzvah program in the B’mitz Family Handbook.

B’nai Mitzvah Program – Forms and Resources

  • B’nai Mitzvah Program Agreement and b’nai mitzvah entrance form. (The is agreement is the standard one.  Students and families may work with the Talmud Torah office to modify it as necessary.)
  • The B’mitz Family Handbook (2018 edition)
  • Service Attendance Requirements: Please use the online form at the very bottom of this page to record service attendance.  This is what will be used to track student progress by the TT office.  You are encouraged to track your own service participation on this paper version.
  • Sound files for the prayers and blessings students will be learning.
  • B’nai Mitzvah Student Liturgy Practice Book 2018 (contains all the prayers and blessings required for B’nai Mitzvah students) including a new TBI trope insert especially helpful for students who have music reading skills.
  • A useful calendar and date converter for figuring out Hebrew birthdays, parshiot, and other relevant information.
  • Looking for parsha commentary?
    •  Talmud Torah recommends My Jewish Learning’s site. They have links to many resources for each week’s portion.
    • The JRC (Jewish Reconstructionist Communities) also has a good collection of divrei Torah for each parsha.
  • Interested in using your b’nai mitzvah to help with Holocaust Remembrance? Check out this excellent organization Remember Us that helps today’s b’nai mitzvah students honor children who died in the Holocaust.
  • Honors List: The form parents fill out indicating which friends and relatives will be receiving various honors during the b’nai mitzvah.  You can download an excel version that you can fill in electronically from our b’nai mitzvah Google drive.
  • Building Use Form: Parents must use this form to inform the office staff of any planned uses of the building events related to b’nai mitzvah (kiddush, luncheon, dinner, party) before or after b’nai mitzvah.
  • Caterer Handout: A handy guide with explanations of TBI kitchen policies to give anyone helping with food prep for your family’s event.
  • B’Mitzvah Program Template (the handout that many families choose to make to give people at the service)
  • Want to revolutionize the whole b’nai mitzvah experience?  You’re not alone.  There’s even an organization dedicated to it.  Check out B’nai Mitzvah Revolution from URJ. And here’s a great article about redefining bar and bat mitzah for all our kids.
  • Have you ever wondered about the symbolism behind the tallit and tzitzit? Also, here’s an article on tallit and tzitzit from the Chabad perspective (keeping in mind that our community’s egalitarian values differ somewhat).  What are the rules for wearing a tallit? See this from Israelcraft.