So you are planning for you Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Congratulations. What a wonderful and fun day you are going to have.
There is lots to do and lots to plan, so let’s get started.
The first thing you may want to do is start reading your Torah 9-10 months ahead for 10-15 minutes a day. There is lots to learn so don’t leave it to the last minute. Start with a sheet including vowels, unless you can speak Hebrew fluently. Websites like Doulingo offer free Hebrew lessons for free.
Know what your portion means and study your Haftarah portion. Join in on discussions and add your own insights to what the Haggadah is talking about. And speak with your Rabbi about any questions you may have, like when you shake the Lulav and Etrog, why are you shaking it in each direction.
Start thinking about your speech. It is customary for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah candidate to give a speech to the congregation. It can be about pretty much anything you want, so long as it relates back to your Torah portion. You might want to include an informal explanation of your Mitzvah project, but you don’t have to.
- Welcome everyone in the crowd.
- Expand on an idea from the readings of the day.
- Say what the ceremony means to you, and how you connect with the lesson.
- Thank your family, your rabbi, anyone else who helped you prepare, and everyone who came to see you.
Choose who will do your Aliyahs. Having an Aliyah is a great honor so you should choose your Olehs (people who have an Aliyah) carefully. Usually, you will do the last Aliyah, and there will be six other Aliyahs to give out. The only rule is that the Olehs must be Jewish and must be of age. That is, they must be over 12 if they are women and 13 if they are men.
Pay attention to the ritual of the Shabbat Services. Going to services is a good idea anyway, but when you’re preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, it’s even more imperative. You need to be familiar with the prayers and the stage directions, because you will be doing them yourself during your Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Preform Mitzvoth. Mitzvoth translates as “commandment” and it usually refers to a Jew’s obligation to God to help others. A mitzvah can be something as small as holding the door open for someone, or as large as starting your own organization to feed the hungry. Doing Mitzvoth shows God that you are responsible and are ready to take on the responsibilities of becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Decide on your Mitzvah Project.
While you should do mitzvahs every day, this one is special. It should be about something you feel truly passionate about. You should consider your Bar or Bat Mitzvah project a part of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Try to do something big that will make a major impact on your community.
- Your mitzvah project can be either between you and God or between you and your community.
- A project between you and God can be an art project, a scrapbook, a computer program, or a writing project.
- A charitable project might be a fundraising project, a volunteering commitment, or a charitable program you start yourself.
If your Mitzvah project is meant to help others, make sure it’s an effective form of help. Some charitable projects are more fun for the organizers than they are helpful for the community: be honest as you plan, and commit to actually making a change.
- Make a list of things you would like to change in your community.
- Make a list of things you are good at and enjoy doing.
- Consider how you can apply your time and energy over the long term to make a difference.
- Ask the adults in your life to help you set up a project that will apply your skills to your passions. Ask your synagogue to help connect you with resources to strengthen your project
Begin your service project a few months before your ceremony. Earlier is better, but a few months is plenty of time. It doesn’t have to finish until after your ceremony, but you need get it started beforehand so that by the time you have your ceremony it is already in place.
Set a date for your ceremony.
Make sure you set the date at least a year in advance. You will need at least that much time to fully prepare for the ceremony and out-of-town guests will need to know the date early in order to make plans to attend. Usually the date is around the time of your birthday (13 for a boy and 12 or 13 for a girl depending on your synagogue), but it doesn’t have to be.
- Choose a date when you are least busy, that might be after school is out or during a break, but be warned that these dates are often the first to be grabbed and some guests may be on vacation.
- You will be very busy about two weeks before the ceremony solidifying your plans, so make sure you will have time.
Come up with a plan or theme for your Reception.
Your reception can be anything you want, from a formal party with a DJ and dancing, to a casual sports-and-game day. Whatever it is, try to pick something that you can invite all of your guests to. That means choosing something that isn’t too expensive. If you leave some guests out, you might end up in more drama than you can even imagine.
- Talk with your parents about what you can afford.
- Reserve a space, or find a house with a big yard and plan to set up there.
Once you have the date and the reception area booked, find a good photographer that will be there to capture all of the days events so nothing is missed. Interview the photographer so you know they know what they are doing and that you will get a long with them, and that they will provide the images you have asked for. Make sure you have a contract stating exactly what is expected and the days, time and locations he will be there for you. And state what you will get for his service.
At Chris Jensen Studios, he have several packages and price points for you to match any budget. All include the practice ceremony, and full reception with all hi-res hand edited photos delivered to you on a custom usb that you can print copy and share. We also have albums, metal panels, canvas, acrylics, amalfi’s, etc for you in packages or Al A Carte.
Send out invitations. As soon as you know how many people you can accommodate, send out your Bar Mitzvah Invitations so your guests will save the date. Spend some time on the invitations and make them look nice.
Go shopping and find the perfect suit or dress. Make sure you get comfortable shoes as well, because you will be on your feet for both of the days and you don’t want your day to be ruined by uncomfortable foot wear.