Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide

bar_mitzvah_lgMazel Tov! You are thinking about the great day when your son or daughter will step up on the Bema and read from the Torah, when your child will be part of a deeper, richer tie to almost 6000 years of Jewish history.

socialhall16But you are also thinking about all the friends and relatives with whom you want to share this momentous day.  This page offers you information on how to help your child prepare for the event with school staff and with private tutors.  It tells you about meetings, special events, photography, ways to honor relatives and just about anything else you can think of. It also offers information on kosher and non-kosher caters, special donations to honor this event and more.  So, welcome to the great adventure.

Requirements for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

  • The family of the student must be a member of Oseh Shalom for two consecutive years, including the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
  • The student must have entered Oseh Shalom religious school or an equivalent program no later than 3rd grade. All students must complete the 7th grade at Oseh Shalom Religious School.
  • Students must attend a minimum of 10 Shabbat and/or Festival services from the beginning of the 6th grade until three months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. A minimum of seven of these services must be Shabbat morning services or festival services other than High Holy Day Services.
  • Fees: All synagogue dues and fees MUST be current prior to the date of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Should you have any questions, please contact the Financial Secretary. The Synagogue Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee is currently $550. It includes a video tape of the service, a juice and challah kiddush after the service, and helps support the cost of the cantor’s services. The full Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee MUST be paid to confirm a Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.
  • All students must be tutored. Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutoring is separate from Hebrew School. Students usually begin once-a-week Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons nine months to a year before their ceremony. Oseh Shalom’s Religious School includes a tutor to teach Torah and Haftarah blessings and “trope,” the tune appropriate to the Torah and Haftarah readings. Then the tutor focuses on the student’s specific portions. Also, the Rabbi will want to discuss with the tutor which portions of text will be read by the student.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Date

The date of your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah must be on the synagogue’s calendar. You will receive a date the January of the year your child will turn. If you do not have a date for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, please call the Office Administrator so that arrangements can be made.


  • At least one parent needs to attend the Bar/Bat Mitzvah orientation meeting, usually held during the 6th grade school year. The Congregation sponsors additional family programs to enhance the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience, such as a Shabbaton or Weekend Retreat Program. These programs help our students bond together as a class, and allow parents to make new friendships with other members of the synagogue community.
  • The Office Administrator, will contact you six to eight weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to set up appointments for the student to meet with the Rabbi and for one 45 minute appointment with the parent(s). The Rabbi will help your student write a derash (commentary) on one of the themes for that Shabbat.
  • The last session with the Rabbi will include a “walk-through” in the sanctuary. During this walk-through, students will practice carrying the Torah through the sanctuary. Girls who plan to wear high heels should bring those shoes to the walk-through session.
  • In the parents’ meeting, parents will review details of the service with the Rabbi. The Rabbi will provide each family with a Service Checklist to be completed before the family meeting. You must return the finalized Service Checklist to the synagogue office at least two weeks before the service.
  • We also schedule a meeting with the Executive Director six to eight weeks before the ceremony. The Executive Director will review logistics such as set-ups, schedules, special needs, and facility details.


Kiddush Following Services

We ask that all Bar/Bat Mitzvah families sponsor a Kiddush for the congregation following the Saturday morning service. Even if the reception is elsewhere, it is important to have a few minutes to greet friends and family, to wish them Shabbat Shalom, and to enjoy the beauty of the day. Also, it is a mitzvah to provide a Kiddush for congregation members who come together for Shabbat.

Our Sisterhood sets up a basic wine and challah Kiddush, covered by your Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee. If you wish, the Sisterhood can also cater a more elaborate Kiddush luncheon at an additional reasonable cost.

If you wish to arrange a Kiddush through the Sisterhood that is more elaborate than the basic wine and challah, please contactl Marilyn Rifkin, ( our sisterhood caterer. Marilyn provides high quality service at an in-house price with a profits going to Sisterhood. If you prefer, you may bring in a Kosher caterer to provide your Kiddush.

When we have a double service and one family rents the social hall for a reception following the service, the Kiddush is held in the lobby or classrooms 10 and 11.

Holding Your Celebration at Oseh Shalom

If you would like to host more than the basic Kiddush, you must reserve the Social Hall. Oseh Shalom’s social hall is a convenient and lovely place to hold the celebration after a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Call the office for rental fees. The most cost effect way to hold a kosher luncheon it to let the Oseh Shalom Sisterhood cater for you.  We can host a full service reception for you with meat or dairy entrees, appetizers and desserts.  Sisterhood stocks cloth table clothes and many other accessories to enhance your event. Contact Marilyn Rifkin, ( for details.

If you wish to reserve space, we suggest doing so as far in advance as possible to ensure you are not disappointed. However, you are welcome to contact us at any date to see if the room you want is available.  When we schedule a double ceremony, the family whose request has the earliest office date stamp will have first preference. The second family may opt to use of the social hall on the same day but at a different time.

You can rent rooms 10 and 11 independently from the social hall for a small sit-down event. Rooms 10 and 11 can accommodate table seating for 70-80 persons. Since the Kitchen must be shared under these circumstances, the family using the classrooms must be flexible in their selection of menu to ensure that there is no conflict with the social hall caterer. For this to work, the two families may use the same caterer or the classroom event must use the Sisterhood as their caterer. The details of such a rental have to be worked out on a case-by-case basis.

Unless you make specific reservations for the day or evening of your celebration, the calendar coordinator will assume that the building is available for use by other organizations or individuals.

Kosher Caterers

We have a kosher kitchen. Our wonderful sisterhood caterer can provides a fantastic lunch or dinner for 25-250 people. Contact the office for more information.  You are welcome to use outside caterers who are certified as kosher by a recognized Rabbinical Council. Certain outside caterers who are not certified as kosher will be able to use our kitchen under the following conditions:

  • All work is supervised by an approved mashgiach
  • Only approved food can be brought in to the synagogue
  • Only Oseh Shalom utensils and equipment may be used in food preparation
  • All food preparation must be done in our synagogue kitchen

Alcohol at Reception

Many youngsters may be attending the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service and the receptions. Don’t forget to remind the caterer that alcoholic drinks should not be served to minors.


All deliveries to the synagogue must be noted on the appropriate forms and turned in to the office no later than 10 days before the event. Deliveries should be made between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


As part of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, you are welcome to include a DJ, Live Band or other music on Shabbat.


NO photographs may be taken during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service. However, you are welcome to arrange a time before or after the service to take pictures in the sanctuary.  We suggest the Thursday or Friday before the service, when you and your family are likely less tense and would not be violating the spirit of Shabbat. The week after the service is even better for relaxed shots. Pictures may be taken in parts of the building on Shabbat.

You will receive a free DVD of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony done by our state of the art system. Although problems are very rare, we do not guarantee the taping system.

The Service

This is a sacred event.  Please keep the following notes in mind.

  • Kippot: If you have special kippot that you would like to provide for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah service, you may bring them to the synagogue before services on Friday night and store them in the library. When you arrive on Saturday morning you may bring them into the lobby area and place them into the kipa bins located on the sides of the Sanctuary foyer.
  • Appropriate Attire: Please remember that appropriate dress should be worn for a synagogue service. Synagogue attire should be modest, and should reflect the importance of spending the Sabbath day in the House of God. For example, bare shoulders and formal evening attire are inappropriate for a synagogue service.
  • Decorum at Services: Please remind the friends of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and other guests that they should take a prayer book, sit quietly, and not leave the sanctuary in groups during the service. If you have asked someone to usher, please remind them to help us keep proper decorum during worship.

Friday Night Before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

It is often the custom for the student, and the mother and grandmother(s), or other family members, to lead the lighting of Shabbat candles on the Friday night before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service. Should you choose this option, please let Rabbi Heifitz know by indicating on the Service Checklist.

We suggest that the family sponsor the Oneg Shabbat on Friday night. Contact the Sisterhood Oneg Rep at least 8 weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to sponsor the Oneg.

All students lead the recitation of the Kiddush (blessing over the wine) during services on Friday evening.

Special congregational programs or services may be held on the Friday night preceding your Bar/Bat Mitzvah or during the Saturday service. It is usually possible, however, for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah person, family members, or friends to participate in the service. Please understand that although this is an important day for you and for your family, the Friday night and Saturday morning services are congregational services at which you will be participating in special ways.

Saturday Morning: Families should arrive at the synagogue by 9:40 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Students Leading the Service: The student is encouraged to lead as much of the Saturday morning service as possible at the service. You can discuss options with the Rabbi and your tutor.

Parental/Family Participation

  • Tallit: Parents may wish to formally present a tallit to their son or daughter and say a few words about the tallit as a symbol of maturity and observance of mitzvot. Sometimes, grandparents of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student will present a tallit. Presenting a tallit is an option not a requirement. This ceremony is our creative addition to the traditional Saturday morning service. Although some families request this option, many families do not.
  • Special Words: Parents may chose to share words of blessing for their child. After a student has read from Torah or Haftarah, and has presented his/her derash (Torah/Haftarah commentary) to the congregation, a parent (or parents) may be called to speak. If a parent chooses to express a blessing, it should not exceed 3 minutes.

What should you say? You should focus on hopes and blessings that you hold for your child. The speech should not be a litany of your child’s accomplishments and achievements. This is a spiritual moment in which we look to the future, and it is a wonderful opportunity to express to your child what kind of person you hope he/she might become.

Instead of composing words to say to a student, parents may wish to recite a prayer or blessing that is drawn from our prayerbook or other traditional sources. We have samples of such prayers and blessings in the synagogue office.

Family Participation

A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a celebration for the entire family. Brothers, sisters, and other family members may take part in the service. Many options for participation and additions to the service are available, and Rabbi Heifitz will be happy to discuss these possibilities with you.


You will want to begin thinking early about the honors you can give to family members and friends. There are numerous honors that can be given out. For a single Bar/Bat Mitzvah, seven aliyot (blessings and after each Torah reading) are given out.

Please indicate the English and Hebrew names of the people to whom you wish to give aliyot. Each individual’s Hebrew name consists of his/her Hebrew name and the Hebrew names of his/her father and /or mother.

A transliteration of the blessing recited before the Torah is included in this Handbook (see appendix #2) This transliteration can be given in advance to those being honored with an aliyah, thus giving them the opportunity to review the blessings before being called up to the Torah. Call the synagogue office to request additional transliterations.

Some of your family or guests may need to practice the Torah blessings in advance. Please encourage them to review the blessings prior to the service. If you wish, we can also provide you with tapes of the chanting and/or reading of the blessings. In this way, no one will be embarrassed by inadequate preparation.

Please note that it is the minhag (custom) at Oseh Shalom to wear a tallit (prayer shawl) when a Torah aliyah blessing is recited. Please inform those who will be given an aliyah that a tallit should be worn when they are called up to the Torah.

Torah Readers

We encourage family members (above the age of 13) to participate in the service by reading from the Torah. Obviously, this high honor is a more difficult task than the usual “aliya” honor which involves reciting the blessing before and after the Torah reading.

If you wish to ask a family member of friend to read from the Torah, please call the synagogue office so that we can have our Torah Reading Coordinator contact you. Many Torah readings are assigned to congregants months in advance. Please notify us quickly so that we can accommodate your request as much as possible.

Torah reading is a special skill. Knowledge of Hebrew alone does not qualify someone to read Torah. Torah reading requires diligent preparation. Please make sure that whomever you invite to read Torah possesses the requisite skill and will be able to take the necessary time to prepare.

Other Honors

Other honors include lifting, unwrapping and wrapping the Torah, Ark openings and closings, special prayers or readings. Although certain honors are appropriate for family members or friends who are Jewish, the Service Checklist contains opportunities to include and honor non-Jewish guests. For double Bar/Bat Mitzvah, there are additional opportunities for Jewish or non-Jewish family members and friends to participate in the service by leading English readings.

Musical Requests

Some families wish to include additional musical selections or have preferred melodies for certain prayers. Please discuss your suggestions with Cantor Bernhardt.

Ushers and Congregational Gifts

Please ask one or more congregational members to greet your guests and hand out prayerbooks, etc. as guests enter. If you are unable to choose a congregational member, and would like to have one of your invited guests assist, please let us know.

Representatives of the Congregation and Sisterhood will present the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student with special gifts as part of the service. Please indicate on the Service Checklist if there is a congregant or Sisterhood member whom you would like to present the gift. Please remember to inform them of the honor you have given them!

Tzedaka — Honoring the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Many families contribute to or give a gift to the synagogue in honor of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is a meaningful way to mark the occasion for everyone in the family, and to express support for the synagogue. We also encourage families to support the international Jewish hunger relief campaign called Mazon. Families who participate pledge three percent of the cost of their party/reception to this organization, which forwards all of the contributions to alleviate hunger throughout the world. Information may be obtained through the synagogue office.

Confirmation Program

We hope that you will enroll your student in our Confirmation Program. Students from grades 8-12 are eligible for this special program which emphasizes students’ educational and social needs. For more information, call the Religious School Office.


  • Office Administrator Andrew Maayan: 301-498-5151
  • Religious School: Renee Richards: 301/498-7004
  • Rabbi Daria or Josh Jacobs-Velde: 301/498-5151
  • Cantor Charlie Bernhardt: 301/604-8449
  • Religious Vice-President, John Riehl 301/490-3645
  • Sisterhood Catering: Marilyn Rifkin at 301/498-5151
  • Oneg Shabbat Chair, Mona Davis at 240-423-0049 or
  • Torah Reader Coordinator, Maryrita Wieners 301/649-3822

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