The culmination of our students’ Jewish education is their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Our Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony has English, Hebrew and Yiddish components, and each student is required to write and deliver two speeches that require research and preparation. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah class as a whole is actively engaged in a wide variety of significant social action and community service projects (see List of Community Service Projects page for examples). The ceremony and course of preparation are individualized and adapted for each student. We view the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year as an unprecedented opportunity for profound learning and engagement (a time when the educational gains of the previous years are consolidated and intellectual and emotional breakthroughs occur, a time where meaningful and lasting components of Jewish identity are forged), and very significant faculty time is dedicated to each student. Five faculty members collaborate to teach the Bar Mitzvah class. Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony that we have conducted has received wonderful feedback from the family and the assembled guests. Statements like “I have never seen a Bar Mitzvah like this!” and “I did not know a school like this existed!” — coupled with superlatives regarding the student’s level of engagement and preparation — are typical.
One of the student’s two speeches describes the extensive social action and community service activities that are a core component of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, with the student making and embracing the connection between coming of age and the Jewish responsibility for helping others and creating a better and more just world. The other speech involves the student choosing three Jewish values that have particular resonance for the student and researching applications of those values in Jewish history, as well as connecting those values to the student’s own life (past, present and future). Both speeches are written by the student under the guidance of two faculty members. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah speeches and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony are designed to maximize the interest, engagement and passion of the student, and they have the same effect on the guests in attendance at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.