Many folks see bar and bat mitzvah (son and daughter of the commandments) as a conclusion ceremony, an achievement and reward for several years of concerted effort in learning about Judaism. While becoming a bar or bat mitzvah does mark an achievement, it is just the beginning of Jewish learning for both the teen student and his/her family. The teen brain is very different than the child brain. It has more capacity for complex ideas, synthesis, and analysis. There are many Jewish concepts that are just too difficult for the child brain to perceive. The b’nai mitzvah experience prepares the child brain for the next stages of Jewish learning as the brain matures and grows through the teen and adult years.
Becoming a Jew is a process of life-long learning and growth which starts in a new way for teens. Many b’nai mitzvah programs provide elementary school aged students with a depth experience of learning to decode Hebrew in preparation for mastering prayer recitation and Torah reading. It also includes an opportunity to study a portion of Torah text for deeper meaning. Most Jews need much more breadth than this in their Jewish knowledge.
I see the b’nai mitzvah experience through a completely different lens than most synagogue programs. It is an opportunity for a family to learn Jewishly together, to explore their values and beliefs. Through field trips, interviews, study, and other creative projects, families can broaden their expectations about what becoming bar or bat mitzvah means to them. If you are looking for an experience beyond the synagogue walls, I’d love to set up a meeting with you to discuss your goals.