B’nai Mitzvah Invitation Policy Approved by the Youth Education Committee October 2016
Sacred Community is deeply important to all of us. Some might say that a sacred community, a kehillah kedoshah, is only about prayer and our spiritual work. Of course, that is a major component, but so are our efforts to encounter one another in kind, respectful, meaningful ways outside of the sanctuary. The times we spend with our congregational community outside of services are often those that bring us closest together and forge the bonds that make our kehillah kedoshah strong and lasting.
The bar or bat mitzvah is one of the most exciting and significant moments in a family’s life. It also is a momentous occasion for the entire congregation, marking the passage into Jewish maturity of another member of our kehillah kedoshah. Rabbi Greene, Katherine Schwartz, Holli Berman, the Board of Trustees, and the Youth Education Committee are striving in a variety of ways to increase the entire congregation’s investment in the collective b’nai mitzvah experience. This has many aspects, including:
• Encouraging all members to attend b’nai mitzvah services regardless of whether they have been invited to the private, family celebrations or know the child(ren) being honored.
• Encouraging parents to attend the b’nai mitzvah services that their children are attending, to participate in welcoming our young people into the covenant.
Another aspect of this community-building effort is directed specifically towards parents of children who are becoming bar or bat mitzvah. Without creating a requirement or a policy, we strongly encourage you to invite all members of your child’s b’nai mitzvah class to his or her b’nai mitzvah celebration, the “party” that for many kids is as important an aspect of the experience as learning their Torah portions. We have had past experiences of student being excluded and families have spoken to us about the hurt feelings this causes both the parents and the students. A consequence of this is that these families feel their Jewish experience at Har HaShem is not an authentic expression of Jewish values. We recognize that this may add something to your costs, and is not a trivial request, but we ask that you be mindful of our goal to make the synagogue a safe and welcoming place for all of our kids. We hope that the members of our community will be sure to include all of these young adults-to-be in their b’nai mitzvah parties, expanding our circles and bringing our community closer together. For reference, most religious school grades at Har HaShem have 20 to 25 children.
As a congregation, we will do our part, as well. We continue to seek ways to strengthen our youth programs. We will be facilitating more interactive, informal learning and community building experiences so that our kids know one another. And we will begin these experiences in the younger grades, so that our children really do grow together. This year, for example, each religious school class has “classroom crew” volunteers, parents who have agreed to organize a few events each year, outside of religious school, for parents and kids to socialize and connect.
Rabbi Greene, Katherine, Holli Berman, and the rest of the staff, along with the volunteers, are striving to make our Jewish learning environment one that is compelling and inspirational, and one where our children – and where we – are known and valued.
We hope that you will join us in the spirit of this message to strengthen our kehillah kedoshah.