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tamar

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Location : Northern Virginia

PostSubject: Bat Mitzvah   Thu May 31, 2012 2:39 pm

This is a question for those who have planned or will be planning in the future a Bat Mitzvah. I am sitting here reading my daughters Torah Portion which is Sh'mot 1:1 - 6:1. I am now feeling the weight of this first Jewish ritual my daughter will take part in. She and I need to read it through before she has her first meeting with the cantor. So I am reading it today and making notes as to a timeline.

She also needs to do a project and I am not sure how to go about helping her to find a project. I suspect she does not know either. This is where I feel the absence of Jewish family.

So I am asking those who have planned what did you do? How did you start.

Her date is Jan 5th 2013.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:44 pm

This is an excellent question, Tamar. I am curious too.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:30 am

The candidates in my Reform synagogue seemed to do more volunteer work, and the ones in my Conservative shul seem to do more charitable giving.

Some of the things they've done:

Collecting and donating formal dresses for a charity that gives poor girls prom dresses.
Donating money to a charity that provides board games to poor families.
Collecting for Second Harvest or working at a soup kitchen.
Working for Room at the Inn (which all the local synagogues take turns doing).
Tutoring inner city children.
Working on beautification projects, community gardens, etc.

What's meaningful to your daughter? What's important in her life? Just find a charity that brings what's important to her (be that fashion, family activities, education, food, outdoor spaces, etc.) to people who don't have access to those things.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:55 pm

I believe I am one of few participants in this forum who has had the experience of having planned and been involved in my children's bnei mitzvah. I have also attended dozens of bnei mitzvah services and celebrations over many years: from Reform to Conservative to Orthodox; from quite modest to what I estimate was double the cost of my wedding (which had 150 guests and a dinner reception); from minimal participation of the BM to the BM leading most of one or more of the services and reading the entire full seven Torah readings plus Haftarah.

Is your daughter's date in the upcoming January 2013 or the following year? I assume that she is doing a Shabbat morning service? You might consider that a Mincha service is shorter and still has Torah readings (shorter, but fewer, so fewer Aliyot) and that at that time of the year, Havdalah is early, so you can time things so that the service is followed by a celebration that does not have Shabbat restrictions. One disadvantage is that your daughter is less likely to be familiar with the Mincha nusach, so it may be harder (even if shorter) if she is planning to lead a service.

One aspect that comes up for these kind of semahot for children of converts is that there are more likely to be non-Jewish family members present. Be sure to discuss with your shul's leadership what things a non-Jew may or may not do since that varies. My family didn't mind not being involved, so it wasn't an issue. In many shuls, non-Jews may read non-liturgical prayers such as the "Prayer for Our Country" in Sim Shalom. In Conservative shuls, it is generally forbidden for a non-Jew to to do anything official on the Bimah. In a non-traditional shul, it might be permissible for non-Jewish relatives to open the Ark.

Concerning post-service "event planning" aspects, it depends what kind of events you want to do and on your area. I think you are not in as urban an area as I am where venues and caterers book up early. So you'll need to ask other parents for advice about that. You should also get their recommendations and warnings about who to avoid for that kind of stuff.

Service projects may depend on requirements of your shul. The shul where my children attended Hebrew school required 13 hours of approved service hours within the year preceding the bar/bat mitzvah. For both of my kids we were not overly creative because we simply used the hours that our family already put in for Jewish-related tzedaka work: We participate in a huge holiday kosher food box packing just before Pesach and Rosh Hashanah every year. "Maot Chitim" packs over 5000 boxes so they need many volunteers to do various things. There is Sunday packing the week before of non-perishables (like Matzah and wine) and then there is egg checking and rubber-banding of egg boxes (to keep them from opening and spilling in the boxes) the night before the major packing. And then there is the 6am-9am packing of frozen chickens, vegetables, and eggs, followed by he delivery using both private vehicles and commercial trucks to buildings with many needy families.

My kids have also enjoyed doing volunteer hours at a place that serves hot kosher meals "restaurant style" to Jewish and non-Jewish people in need. And every year, we also try to participate in our other minyan's twice yearly staffing of a soup kitchen that is run out of a church. Each family contributes one or two cheese or veggie lasagnas and we make up a salad and buy frozen veggies, rolls and desserts from member donations to complete the meal. The minyan members buy supplies and make bag lunches of peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, and cookies that the soup kitchen clients take for the next day. And we serve and clean up. So we put all those "food services" hours together for their "BM project hours". We also used the theme of "food to the needy" for centerpieces for my daughter's bat mitzvah. I bought a couple dozen plastic baskets at a dollar store and spent the month before buying up large amounts pasta and canned foods whenever they went on sale so that I had enough to fill each basket. After the simcha, we donated some of the food to a kosher food pantry and some without the accepted hechshers to the local non-kosher food pantry located in our town (although it serves a larger region).

Many nursing homes have volunteer jobs such as delivering mail. If a BM enjoys sports, perhaps she could volunteer to help with a local Special Olympic athlete or team. Some hospitals have "Ronald McDonald Houses" for families of patients and they might be able to use the help for babysitting young siblings or just playing games with them or reading to them to pass the time. An academically able BM might be able to volunteer time to tutor at after school centers or libraries that provides volunteer tutoring.

I personally prefer direct service people-centered projects with contact with the beneficiaries, but there are lots of other possibilities too. Many food pantries need help sorting and stocking shelves. I've seen a lot of "collections" as BM projects. Food collections, book drives, clothing/coat drives, etc. An animal lover might be able to do some volunteer hours at an animal shelter. If the BM has a well-behaved dog, she might be able to bring it to a nursing home for "animal therapy". A nature lover might volunteer hours doing public hiking trail maintenance or work at a local nature center. Most charitable organizations can use help doing envelope stuffing. Perhaps the BM has lost a relative to cancer or heart disease and would like to help an organization involved in those causes. Or if there is a local fundraiser walk-a-thon or bike ride or event, there is generally need for someone to staff the registration tables or hand out stuff.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:34 am

Thanks so much for all you wrote!! I have read it over and over. I am feeling better about her Bat Mitzvah now. We got the study guide we will be working from and I have read the Torah portion and she has read it and we have discussed it so she understands it. It is Sh'mot and it has several stories in it that will lead up to the Hebrews leaving Egypt. It has Moses and the story of the burning bush. She will meet with the cantor next week. She will start working with the Hebrew tutor soon and I am excited for her.

She and I have talked more about her project and I talked to the cantor and told her that since I have no Jewish family members to ask questions of I have been over whelmed. She really helped me with ideas about the project. She said it does not have to be a really big project. What ever Erin is interested in. So we have talked about that a bit more.

We are not having a huge party. We will cater a luncheon after the service.

I am a member of a reform shul so the restrictions are not as much as other movements. My parents will be able to be involved in the service although at this time I don't really know what that will mean. I am just working on the early planning.

I have the social hall for the luncheon and my friend runs a catering service and I have asked her if she will work with me. We will need to to the oneg after the Friday service.






Debbie B. wrote:
I believe I am one of few participants in this forum who has had the experience of having planned and been involved in my children's bnei mitzvah. I have also attended dozens of bnei mitzvah services and celebrations over many years: from Reform to Conservative to Orthodox; from quite modest to what I estimate was double the cost of my wedding (which had 150 guests and a dinner reception); from minimal participation of the BM to the BM leading most of one or more of the services and reading the entire full seven Torah readings plus Haftarah.

Is your daughter's date in the upcoming January 2013 or the following year? I assume that she is doing a Shabbat morning service? You might consider that a Mincha service is shorter and still has Torah readings (shorter, but fewer, so fewer Aliyot) and that at that time of the year, Havdalah is early, so you can time things so that the service is followed by a celebration that does not have Shabbat restrictions. One disadvantage is that your daughter is less likely to be familiar with the Mincha nusach, so it may be harder (even if shorter) if she is planning to lead a service.

One aspect that comes up for these kind of semahot for children of converts is that there are more likely to be non-Jewish family members present. Be sure to discuss with your shul's leadership what things a non-Jew may or may not do since that varies. My family didn't mind not being involved, so it wasn't an issue. In many shuls, non-Jews may read non-liturgical prayers such as the "Prayer for Our Country" in Sim Shalom. In Conservative shuls, it is generally forbidden for a non-Jew to to do anything official on the Bimah. In a non-traditional shul, it might be permissible for non-Jewish relatives to open the Ark.

Concerning post-service "event planning" aspects, it depends what kind of events you want to do and on your area. I think you are not in as urban an area as I am where venues and caterers book up early. So you'll need to ask other parents for advice about that. You should also get their recommendations and warnings about who to avoid for that kind of stuff.

Service projects may depend on requirements of your shul. The shul where my children attended Hebrew school required 13 hours of approved service hours within the year preceding the bar/bat mitzvah. For both of my kids we were not overly creative because we simply used the hours that our family already put in for Jewish-related tzedaka work: We participate in a huge holiday kosher food box packing just before Pesach and Rosh Hashanah every year. "Maot Chitim" packs over 5000 boxes so they need many volunteers to do various things. There is Sunday packing the week before of non-perishables (like Matzah and wine) and then there is egg checking and rubber-banding of egg boxes (to keep them from opening and spilling in the boxes) the night before the major packing. And then there is the 6am-9am packing of frozen chickens, vegetables, and eggs, followed by he delivery using both private vehicles and commercial trucks to buildings with many needy families.

My kids have also enjoyed doing volunteer hours at a place that serves hot kosher meals "restaurant style" to Jewish and non-Jewish people in need. And every year, we also try to participate in our other minyan's twice yearly staffing of a soup kitchen that is run out of a church. Each family contributes one or two cheese or veggie lasagnas and we make up a salad and buy frozen veggies, rolls and desserts from member donations to complete the meal. The minyan members buy supplies and make bag lunches of peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, and cookies that the soup kitchen clients take for the next day. And we serve and clean up. So we put all those "food services" hours together for their "BM project hours". We also used the theme of "food to the needy" for centerpieces for my daughter's bat mitzvah. I bought a couple dozen plastic baskets at a dollar store and spent the month before buying up large amounts pasta and canned foods whenever they went on sale so that I had enough to fill each basket. After the simcha, we donated some of the food to a kosher food pantry and some without the accepted hechshers to the local non-kosher food pantry located in our town (although it serves a larger region).

Many nursing homes have volunteer jobs such as delivering mail. If a BM enjoys sports, perhaps she could volunteer to help with a local Special Olympic athlete or team. Some hospitals have "Ronald McDonald Houses" for families of patients and they might be able to use the help for babysitting young siblings or just playing games with them or reading to them to pass the time. An academically able BM might be able to volunteer time to tutor at after school centers or libraries that provides volunteer tutoring.

I personally prefer direct service people-centered projects with contact with the beneficiaries, but there are lots of other possibilities too. Many food pantries need help sorting and stocking shelves. I've seen a lot of "collections" as BM projects. Food collections, book drives, clothing/coat drives, etc. An animal lover might be able to do some volunteer hours at an animal shelter. If the BM has a well-behaved dog, she might be able to bring it to a nursing home for "animal therapy". A nature lover might volunteer hours doing public hiking trail maintenance or work at a local nature center. Most charitable organizations can use help doing envelope stuffing. Perhaps the BM has lost a relative to cancer or heart disease and would like to help an organization involved in those causes. Or if there is a local fundraiser walk-a-thon or bike ride or event, there is generally need for someone to staff the registration tables or hand out stuff.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:37 am

Great ideas!! Thanks!!

I think my reform shul does so much volunteer work and the kids do really great projects. There is a real emphasis on tikkun olam.



Mychal wrote:
The candidates in my Reform synagogue seemed to do more volunteer work, and the ones in my Conservative shul seem to do more charitable giving.

Some of the things they've done:

Collecting and donating formal dresses for a charity that gives poor girls prom dresses.
Donating money to a charity that provides board games to poor families.
Collecting for Second Harvest or working at a soup kitchen.
Working for Room at the Inn (which all the local synagogues take turns doing).
Tutoring inner city children.
Working on beautification projects, community gardens, etc.

What's meaningful to your daughter? What's important in her life? Just find a charity that brings what's important to her (be that fashion, family activities, education, food, outdoor spaces, etc.) to people who don't have access to those things.
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tamar

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Posts : 181
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Northern Virginia

PostSubject: Re: Bat Mitzvah   Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:43 am

My daughter had her meeting with the cantor and her part of the Torah portion she will chant will be the story of Moses being saved by the Egyptian princess.

Now we wait to get our first meeting with the tutor she will work with. I am so excited.
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