B’nai Mitzvah

Every person in our community is on a journey – trying to make sense of what it means to be a Jew and a human being in the world. Our children are also on this journey.

  • The Spirit
  • The Basics
  • The Celebration
  • Links and Resources

Our students don’t have B’nai Mitzvah – they become B’nai Mitzvah. They become responsible adults in the Jewish community and in the world. They have the privilege of entering into the sublime world of Torah study, exploring the mysteries of the texts and ideas that have sustained our people. They become partners in the work of tzedek, of fulfilling the Prophetic mandate for the universal recognition of human dignity, the loving pursuit of justice, and shalom. They learn of the dangers of apathy and indifference, so freely fostered in our culture, and begin to ask questions about what they can do to make a difference.

The B’nai Mitzvah is not the end of the journey; it is the beginning. Our students are affirming, publicly, that they are part of the conversation, and our community is responding with a resounding “YES! We believe that you have something important to say, and we are ready to hear you.”

Contact Ivy Sears – [email protected] – our B’nai Mitzvah Assistant with any questions.

Click here to see our B’nai Mitzvah timeline checklist.

Our Rabbis, Education Team, Music Director, Inclusion Specialist and teachers are committed to helping all our students find the best way to prepare for becoming B’nai Mitzvah. If a student has a special consideration that affects his/her/their ability to learn, please be in touch with the Associate Rabbi at any time so that we can discuss ways of attaining our shared goals for your child.

Learning Requirements
Limudim – our Children’s Learning Program – begins at Pre-K, and we encourage you to start your children as early as you can for the sake of the full integration into community, the strong sense of identity and the most comprehensive learning. Participation in Limudim is a requirement of our B’nai Mitzvah program. Please contact Rebecca Berger – [email protected] – to learn more about our programs, including our monthly Community Learning Program for students at Jewish Day Schools. Students not attending Jewish day school need to be enrolled in Limudim full time (Saturdays and Tuesdays) during their 6th grade and 7th grade years and commit to attending Limudim through the end of their 7th grade academic school year.

Choosing A Date
In the fall of 4th grade, parents/guardians will receive an application with available dates for B’nai Mitzvah. Parents of older 3rd grade students will receive the application as well. Families will choose three potential dates after the student’s 13th birthday on either the Hebrew or Gregorian calendar. Click here to find your child’s Hebrew birthday and if you are interested in exploring parashah (Torah portion) options.

Applications submitted by the deadline will receive a confirmed B’nai Mitzvah date soon after; applications submitted after the deadline will be given dates in the order they were received.

Click here for our Date Request Form

Learning Torah and Haftarah
Students typically begin working with individual tutors approximately 12 months before their B’nai Mitzvah to learn how to chant their Torah and Haftarah portions and all the blessings associated with the Torah service. As tutors get to know the student, they set a learning goal that is challenging yet realistic. Many of our students choose to learn all 7 aliyot and their Haftarah, while other students read fewer. These decisions will be made in conversation with the tutor, parent(s), and the student, with input from our Music Director.

Finding a Tutor
IKAR has a list of approved tutors, so parents must speak with the Music Director BEFORE beginning tutoring. Our B’nai Mitzvah Assistant will connect you around 14 months before the Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah but please reach out if you would like your child to start their learning sooner.

Our Music Director will suggest a tutor based on conversations with you and our education team. Tutors are hired at the family’s expense, and rates range from $100-$150 per hour. As with all aspects of participation at IKAR, please be in touch if you are concerned about financial constraints impacting the tutoring process. If there is a family member with whom you would like your child to study, please speak with our Music Director so he can speak with them to ensure that they are able to meet the needs and expectations of B’nai Mitzvah preparation at IKAR.

Your child will check in with the Music Director three months and one month before the B’nai Mitzvah to monitor progress.  During the week prior to the service, you will meet to review the choreography of the service.

Writing a D’var Torah
To Our Students: Your Torah portion, or parsha, is part of the conversation the Jewish people have been having with each other for a few thousand years. You are a 12-year-old in Los Angeles, but you may soon be agreeing with an elder who lived in Spain at the time Columbus set sail or disagreeing with a Rabbi who lived in Minsk or Morocco just down the road from a great‐great‐great‐grandmother or…who knows!

As you take your place in this lively and crowded conversation your team will be our rabbis, your parents, and the text itself. Beginning 4-5 months before the big day, they will help you prepare a D’var Torah, approximately 5 minutes in length (800 words), with your voice and your thoughts on the parsha.

You can get started exploring your parsha here.

Engaging in Meaningful Tzedek/Justice Work
“Every Jew, and the individual Jew, can survive only through intimate attachment to involvement in the community.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom)

As Jews, we are committed to using our gifts and resources to bring healing, justice, and love to the world. The calls to gemilut hasadim (love), tzedek (justice) and mishpat (righteousness) are central to our understanding of what it means to be a Jew and a human being alive today. That’s why the tzedek project is a critical part of the B’nai Mitzvah experience.

Our tzedek work is made up of individual and communal commitments.

– Our Limudim students will work together on a communal Tzedek project during their Kitah Zayin (7th grade) year. They delve deeply into Jewish teachings around different issues of justice and develop a project with classmates which they work on during Limudim time.

– In addition to their communal project, all students will identify an area of personal interest and find an organization working to make change in that area. The student will then determine one way to support that organization, such as through fundraising, direct support, education, etc.

Students who do not attend Tuesday Limudim will engage in a more robust individual Tzedek project of at least 10 hours over the course of the year leading to the Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah.

Click here for the B’nai Mitzvah Timeline and estimated costs.

After countless hours and months of preparation, it’s finally here. Your child is becoming a Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah. There are a few more pieces to put in place:

Immersing in the Mikvah
In Jewish life, immersing in the mikvah (ritual bath) marks moments of transition large and small. The mikvah ceremony takes place sometime during the month prior to Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah. Every student will participate in this ritual and for some students it will be the final stage in conversion, an opportunity to affirm halakhically (legally) their Jewish identity. Please reach out to Rabbi Ronit Tsadok if your child’s immersion is part of a conversion process.

We coordinate with American Jewish University (15600 Mulholland Drive; [email protected]) to schedule an appointment for the weeks before your child’s celebration. The wonderful people at the mikvah will share everything you need to know, including what to bring and payment arrangements for the mikvah fee ($125 for 1 hour/$50 for 30 minutes).

Our rabbis will walk through the whole process. Your child’s job at the mikvah is very simple; dunk under the water and recite two blessings and Shema. Don’t worry, the water is warm. We strongly urge you to preserve the experience by leaving plenty of time to get to the mikvah, have after‐school snacks available and take some restorative breaths.

Shabbat Service Booklet
Your guests and our community members will learn about your child, their hopes and dreams, concerns about the world, and your family’s honors and blessings in the B’nai Mitzvah booklet. One month before your child’s celebration, the B’nai Mitzvah Assistant will email the booklet questions to you. Help your child take their time and give people an idea of who they really are! Completed booklets must be returned to the office two weeks before the Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah. We will share the booklets with our community during the service, with a digital copy for virtual guests.

Click here for the booklet questions.

Honors for Family and Friends
Your family and friends will participate actively in the Shabbat morning service. The following honors are available but do not all need to be distributed:

-Three aliyot, not including the Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah student’s aliyah (recitation of the blessing over the reading of the Torah)

-Can be given to an individual or a group. At least one person in a group aliyah must be a Jewish adult (age 13+)

-Typically one aliyah is given to the parent(s)/guardian(s)

-Opening of the Ark before and after the Torah service – at least one Jewish adult (age 13+)

-Parent/Guardian Blessing – Parents can offer either the traditional words of the Priestly Blessing or a three-sentence interpretation of the blessing. (Worksheet).

-Tallit Holders during the Parent Blessing – minimum of 4 people

-Chair Lifters – minimum of 4 people

Hosting Shabbat Lunch

B’nai Mitzvah at IKAR are integrated parts of our service and community life. As such, our practice is for B’nai Mitzvah families to host lunch for the community and your guests as part of your celebrations.

Families most often work with our in-house caterer, Del Cielo Catering. Lunch for our community plus 50 guests ranges from $2,200 for a bagel lunch to $4,000 for a more customized menu, with options to enhance both, such as with lox, special salads, etc.

We recognize that, for some families, paying for their guests plus the 200 community members may be a financial burden. Therefore, families who use our in-house caterer have the option to deduct up to $1,500 from their total bill. We are, of course, grateful to those who are able to include that $1,500 in their total, as this helps cover our expenses for the day and keep the bagels flowing all year long.

Our Director of Events will reach out approximately 6 months before B’nai Mitzvah, or you can reach out to [email protected]

We have tables, chairs, and linens for approximately 300 people as well. Click here for information about day-of needs, like tables, chairs, optional rentals, kippots, etc.

Some families choose to order special kippot for the Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah service. It’s an opportunity to see a sea of your child’s favorite color or style on guests and community members’ heads. Options include everything from suede or knit to recycled cans or seed bombs. We recommend ordering enough kippot for your guests plus 50 for the community. Previous B’nai Mitzvah families recommend ordering kippots from: Yarmulka, Klipped, or Mensch Kippah.

Party Jewishly, Party Justly
We ask you to keep Jewish values central as you prepare for the Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah simhah (celebration).

Inclusion + Class Gift
Becoming a Bat/Bar/B’nai Mitzvah is also about being part of a community. If you are having an event outside of services, please invite the whole class. As part of your Limudim tuition, you will be part of a class gift fund. Each student will receive a gift from their classmates, which they will choose together in 6th grade.

Please think about how your simhah can contribute to making life more kind and more just for others.

There are many wonderful organizations (including IKAR) that support the sacred work of building and nurturing community and restoring dignity to all human beings. This is a great opportunity to work with your child to identify tzedakah priorities and make an offering in honor of the student’s achievement.

Many students request that their families and friends make donations to specific funds in lieu of gifts and we encourage our young adults to donate a portion of the money that they receive as gifts.

In addition to whichever organization you choose to contribute to, please also consider a gift of 3% of the cost of your child’s Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah celebration to MAZON (www.mazon.org) to fight hunger in the United States.

Bal Tash’hit
Put simply, it means to live without being wasteful. Make this celebration a reflection of the kind of Jew and human being you want to be in the world. Please think about how your event can rest lightly on our earth.

You can also work with different organizations on creative justice-oriented centerpieces. For example, Fromsoil2soul curates locally grown, non-GMO plant-based centerpieces which are planted to support food sovereignty efforts. SOVA creates centerpieces made up of food items, which can then be donated to those who are food insecure.

General Information:
Estimated Costs

Torah Reading Links and Resources:
Trope Sheet
Blessing at the Reading of the Law
Blessing Before the Haftarah
Blessing After the Haftarah
Aliyah Blessing Audio

Forms and Links:
Pre-Kickoff Meeting Information Form
Booklet Questionnaire
Day-of Information and Honors Form

Contact Information: