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June 13, 2003 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-13

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from page 45

all the basics in a welcoming, informa-
tive, helpful manner. It briefly described
the responsibility of becoming a bat
mitzvah, what it took educationally for
Julie to reach that point and what to
expect from the service itself A short
paragraph gave time and dress details,
directions and an invitation to the par-
ents of the guests to accompany their
"After the service, we were compli-
mented on the behavior of the kids,"
Anita Hack said.
The hope at Temple Israel is for a
recently formed subcommittee to study
and implement ideas for resolving inap-
propriate service behavior.
"We have a long-term plan to pro-
vide a packet for parents of upcoming
b'nai mitzvah, complete with a list of
expectations and a sample letter on syn-
agogue policies to send to their guests,"
Samson said.
At Congregation Kol Shofar in
Tiburon, Calif:, an act of vandalism
among b'nai mitzvah guests put in place
such a letter to be sent along with invi-
"The year before the bar and bat
mitzvah, our parents are given a binder
of information that includes expecta-
tions of what they should be doing,"
said Rabbi Chai Levy.
"One of the expectations is the inclu-
sion 'of a letter to their guests explaining -
decorum and behavior —. such as no
cell phones and the dress that is expect-
ed of the kids. It's been successful."


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"A success of the deco-
rum of the kids at
Temple Beth El is
largely due to the b'nai
mitzvah conducting
the entire service,"
said Rabbi Daniel
Syme. "The kids want
to come and support
their friends and con- Syme
duct themselves accord-
At some synagogues, like Temple
Israel and Shaarey Zedek, the sermon is
sometimes geared specifically for the
b'nai mitzvah-aged group. "From time
to time, the rabbi's sermon will address
questions to the kids, with a prize
offered to those who bring the answers
to the rabbi during the kiddush," Rabbi
Krakoff said.
"But, for some kids, going to shul is
like going to see a movie on a big
screen," Dr. Smiley said.
"We can't think of the bar mitzvah as
a performance," said Ellen Franklin,

managing director of Synagogue 2000
in Los Angeles, an organization leading
synagogue transformation efforts nation-
wide. "It needs to be a shared communi-
ty experience with the congregation
coming as active participants every
The service is also an opportunity for
the b'nai mitzvah to be able to be
included. "The bar and bat mitzvah for
some is the only part of the life cycle
where there is the possibility for being
oriented and educated about what it
means to participate in a synagogue
service," Dr. Smiley said.

Entering The Unfamiliar

Because of the varied streams of Judaism
within our Jewish community, at most
every b'nai mitzvah service some guests
are not familiar with the prayers or the
tunes. Services vary in length and in
amounts of Hebrew word usage. Some
include instruments and microphones.
Knowing that the b'nai mitzvah year
can be a unique opportunity to learn
about different synagogues and unfamil-
iar denominations of Judaism, Hillel
Day School invites clergy of different
streams to meet with their students.
"We invite rabbis to our school to
help orient the kids as to what to expect
of the different types of services," Dr.
Smiley said. "They talk about how a
b'nai mitzvah may have a different
meaning in different denominations,
what to expect from the service, what
dress is appropriate and when is the best
time to leave the service, if necessary."

Parental Involvement

Consistently, when kids are accompa-
nied to synagogue by their parents — or
by another adult they know — they are
more apt to be quieter and respectful.
"When your parents or your friends'
parents are at services you are expected
to be good," said Daniel Rosenbaum,
13, of West Bloomfield.
"I come to services a lot with my
dad," said Hannah Posen, 13, of West
Bloomfield. "When he's there, I follow
the service more and so do my friends
who know he is there."
At Young Israel, where kids typically
attend services with their families, Rabbi
Spolter has observed no significant
behavioral problems during b'nai mitz-
vah services. "If you've been attending
services with your parents your whole
life, and then you attend on a week
when there is a bar mitzvah, its no dif-
At Shaarey Zedek, Rabbi Krakoff
said, "Even when parents attend services
with their kids, they need to be encour-

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