The period of learning to read lends itself to providing background information about Judaism. At a given point the emphasis then begins to swing towards the actual Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation.
My aim is to provide engaging sessions, during which the child is keen to ask questions as well as to listen and to learn. The content includes Jewish history, festivals, customs and traditions, our life cycle, Bible stories as well as Bible terminology, the Holocaust and Israel, etc., all in a manner and format suitable for a given child’s age.
Bar Mitzvah literally translates as "a son of a commandment", Bat Mitzvah – a daughter of a commandment. The word "bar" means "a son" in Aramaic, which was the commonly spoken vernacular of the Jewish people (and much of the Middle East) from around 500 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. “Bat” means a daughter in Hebrew. The word "mitzvah" is Hebrew for "a commandment". When a boy reaches the age of thirteen he automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah (is NOT ‘barmitzvad’!) and is recognized by the Jewish community as an adult, to be counted towards a ‘minyan’ or a quorum necessary in order to conduct public services.
Within the Reform and Liberal Movements a Bat Mitzvah acquires the same status as a Bar Mitzvah. Such children are now morally and ethically responsible for their decisions and actions. The synagogue celebration affirms the child’s recognition of the importance of the newly acquired status by reading a section from the weekly Torah text.
Depending on the movement the family belongs to, (Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, Liberal etc.) there are different requirements from the relevant synagogues for the child’s celebration. In orthodox and Masorti synagogues the Bar Mitzvah prepares the chanting (singing) of a maftir - the last three to five verses of a weekly Torah reading and the chanting of a haftarah – a specified reading from one of the Books of the Prophets. The chanting of Torah and haftarah blessings is part of the ceremony and an honour to accept and to fulfil. In some orthodox synagogues the boy may also be required to pass a written and/or just an oral test prior to the celebration going ahead.
Within the Reform and Liberal Movements apart from a given Torah reading, which will be from the same weekly sidrah (weekly text) but will differ from verses traditionally chanted in orthodox synagogues, the child prepares a d’var Torah or a commentary on their Torah text, which the boy or the girl reads out from the bimah (stage, where Torah scrolls are read from). In some Reform and Liberal synagogues a celebrating Bar or Bat Mitzvah may also take part in the Service and lead some of the prayers, either on Erev Shabbat (Friday night) or on Shabbat morning.
The above is just a ‘brief’ summary and I appreciate parents may wish (or may not need) to gain more detailed information than provided here.
"Thank you so much for everything you have done for me. You made my Bat Mitzvah journey, the most special one of my life and certainly one I will never ever forget. I have enjoyed all our lessons so much and will miss them very much."
With the benefit of experience of teaching children for over twenty years I have developed a simple twin aim.
Firstly to prepare children thoroughly so that they look, sound and genuinely are competent in the expected participation in their celebration in the synagogue, that they can look forward to their respective Bar / Bat Mitzvah celebrations with confidence and to enable them to enjoy the experience on the day itself
to provide them with some understanding and knowledge of us Jews and Judaism linked to our history, heritage, customs and traditions, etc., so that years from now they themselves will be keen for their own children to go through the same experience.
As a rule, celebrating Bnei or Bnot Mitzvah (boys or girls) only need to learn to read Hebrew, rather than learn the language with all its aspects, such as grammar, vocabulary, composition, translation, comprehension, etc., something children will do automatically when learning, for example French.
However in order to be able to follow a supplied recording with a Torah text, the child needs to feel comfortable reading Hebrew. Therefore an important part of ‘pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah’ preparation is a determined focus on gaining reading competence.
"Thank you so much for all the amazing fun hebrew lessons you have provided me. My Monday nights are never going to e the same again. Thank you for everything."
"I know that we spoke at my Bat Mitzvah but I wanted to write to you to say how nice it was for you to be my hebrew teacher and tortuer for the past year. I couldn't have performed or understood my Torah portion without your help. So many people complimented me, but I knew they were complimenting both of us."
"Listening to my daughter sining her portion as well as the rest of her contribution was an extraordinary moving experience for us; her sweet voice seemed to embody a spirtual intensity which surprised and overwhelmed us even though we have heard her preparing for a long time. I think everyone there was knocked out by her sining and pronunciation. Your are a brilliant teacher with a great skill to teach Hebrew to young people as well as to sing their portions so that they enjoy and value the experience."
Colin & Trea
Thank you to all my students and parents for your support and wonderful comments over the past 20 years.
"Well, where do I start?! You could not have made my lessons more of a pleasure! They were so much fun and even though I didn't always practice......I always managed a laugh or two. Thank you for being the BEST teacher and teaching me my Bat Mitzvah."