Last revised March, 2022
Firstly… MAZAL TOV!
As you approach this special event for your family, you will be busy with preparations. In order to help you better navigate this process, we are sharing this B’nei Mitzvah online “handbook” with you. In it you will find helpful information regarding synagogue guidelines, education, tutoring, services, Kiddush, and more. This booklet should function as your basic resource while planning for your simchah. Policies and timelines change from time to time, so new information will be made available to you as applicable.
We are excited about your simcha and look forward to helping you prepare. If you have any questions about anything in this FAQ, or anything else that pertains to your simchah, please feel free to contact us (see item #14 of this FAQ).
May all the planning go smoothly and may you have a wonderful simchah!
Mazal Tov from all of us at KBI!
“Bar Mitzvah” and “Bat Mitzvah” literally mean “son of” or “daughter of the commandments”. “B’nei Mitzvah” is either the gender-neutral version, or the plural (ie., multiple children of any gender or boys specifically; “B’not mitzvah” refers to multiple girls).
When a Jewish child reaches the appropriate age, he or she automatically becomes responsible for his or her own actions, and earns the right to take on roles of religious leadership in the community. No service, party, speech, or prayer is required to reach this milestone. The Bat/Bar/B’nei Mitzvah ceremony, as observed in the synagogue, provides a framework for family and community to guide our children on their journey to becoming Jewish adults. It ensures that they have the skills necessary to take on these responsibilities, making informed Jewish choices as they continue on their religious journeys in the future. As well, it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the genuine achievements that come from preparing for this special event.
We are excited to welcome your family as part of the B’nei Mitzvah Chavurah/Cohort! At Kehillat Beth Israel there are a few basic requirements that must be fulfilled by the B’nei Mitzvah family in order to be eligible for a B’nei Mitzvah celebration. All of these requirements are meant to prepare your child for their simchah, as well as demonstrate what it means to be a Jewish adult.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Cantor Green (your point person for almost all things B’nei Mitzvah-related), Rena Garshowitz (Executive Director – email@example.com) or Rabbi Eytan Kenter (firstname.lastname@example.org). A full contact information list can be found in #14 of this FAQ.
B’nei Mitzvah students and parents should attend services regularly beginning as early as possible, in order to familiarize themselves with the services.
All B’nei Mitzvah students should have a Tallit and a pair of T’fillin of their own. There are many places to purchase a Tallit and T’filin in Toronto and Montreal, as well as online. For T’filin, trustworthy vendors include www.fjmc.org and zerach.com. Please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Kenter (email@example.com) to learn about the options when purchasing prayer-wear.
While all our clergy will work with your family on spiritual issues, Cantor Green will be the primary tutor to prepare the B’nei Mitzvah student for their ritual participation. This service is provided with your membership. If you wish to use your own tutor, you must consult with the Cantor first. In such a case, the Cantor must be confident in the tutor’s suitability, and will regularly check in with the tutor and the student to assess progress.
Cantor Green teaches most, but not necessarily all, students’ private lessons, depending on number of students. He will challenge students without ever overwhelming them (or their family!). Lessons are 20 minutes, in-person at KBI, and students are expected to spend at least 3 sittings at home of 15-20 minutes each, spaced evenly through the week, learning the material that was prepared in each week’s lesson. You can view a sample personalized bat mitzvah webpage here, which contains the recommended home-study method in the first row of the table. Your child’s personalized bar/bat mitzvah webpage will be presented in greater detail in your family’s launch meeting with Cantor Green.
Cantor Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rena Garshowitz, our Executive Director (email@example.com), will also meet with you to review synagogue and celebration-related details.
Parents and B’nei Mitzvah students will attend information sessions with the Cantor and Senior Rabbi.
The Cantor will introduce your family to the B’nei Mitzvah study process; help you choose the date and the Torah reading/Haftarah; explain the parts of services which the student might lead, and help with goal-setting; work with you to set weekly lesson times; and review expectations between the student/family and the Cantor to ensure a successful and meaningful simchah experience.
The Senior Rabbi will discuss or help identify any issues specific to the family (e.g. blended families, questions of tribal status or other halachic implications, etc.); help the student create and initiate a Mitzvah project; and help the student write a D’var Torah, a mini-sermon on the lessons in the Torah reading for that day.
Parents meet with the Executive Director to discuss Kiddush requirements and catering options; room usage; any additional events to be held at KBI (dinner, party, etc.); outstanding dues balance.
Private tutoring with the Cantor or a designated/approved tutor begins. If the student has the capacity and desire to take on some learning in advance of one year out with, say, a family member using printed and audio learning materials provided by the Cantor, they are welcome to do so. Please let the Cantor know if this is of interest.
The Senior Rabbi will discuss with students ideas for the D’var Torah, assign reading/discussion questions, check progress on the Mitzvah project, and help with the acquisition of Tallit and T’filin.
B’nei Mitzvah students begin meeting with the Senior Rabbi every 2-3 weeks to develop potential topics for the D’var Torah, create an outline, write a rough draft, and write the final version.
If you are planning to assign Torah readings to family and friends, please be sure to confirm this with the Cantor. Readers must be experienced at reading from the Torah scroll, and must be prepared to demonstrate their ability.
Parents meet with the Honours Coordinator to review and designate honours.
Final family meetings with Senior Rabbi and/or Cantor, including a Bimah run-through.
A complete contact information list appears in #14 below.
For information on Shabbat morning services and the timing of the roles that you will play, please refer to item #13, below – “Tips and Shabbat Morning Service Outline”. The Honours Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) will review this document with your family and will ensure that the Honours Gabbai assigned to work on the day of your simchah is provided with a complete list of all honours that you have been assigned. On the day of the simchah, the Honours Gabbai will work with one of your family members or friends to locate the honourees.
If your simchah is not on Shabbat morning, please refer to item #11, below – “Shabbat Minchah/Havdallah Honours”, and/or connect with Cantor Green (email@example.com)
Following services, there is a congregational Kiddush meal sponsored by the B’nei Mitzvah family. Please plan for your guests to remain so that they and you may share the celebration with your congregational family.
Because the B’nei Mitzvah ceremony is an experience that happens within the community, the expectation is for the Kiddush to be provided by the B’nei Mitzvah family for both invited guests and shul attendees. In order to be eligible for a full tax receipt, the same food and accommodations must be offered for all Kiddush attendees.
As the date of your simchah nears, you will work closely with the Executive Director to finalize logistics, including coordinating delivery of rented items, liaising with the caterer regarding your kiddush sponsorship, room setup, etc. In order to ensure the appropriate amount of food is ordered, at least two weeks prior to the B’nei Mitzvah ceremony, the synagogue office must be notified as to the approximate number of guests that are expected.
All food eaten in the synagogue must conform to the laws of Kashrut and Shabbat observances; therefore, only caterers that are approved by KBI may be used.
Families are also welcome to use the synagogue for a private Friday night dinner for their invited guests, or for a Saturday night or Sunday party. If you are planning to use the synagogue for these celebrations it is essential that you reserve the facilities one year in advance. Please be in touch with the Executive Director to discuss room rental rates.
Kosher liquor, kosher wine, flowers, and accessories such as kippot, decorated baskets for candy that are provided by the family must be in the synagogue before 2:00 pm on the Friday of your simchah weekend and may not be removed until the end of Shabbat. Any of the above not removed by the Monday following the event will be donated unless other arrangements have been made.
You can reach Rena Garshowitz, our Excutive Director, about any of the above at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Shabbat celebrations, please be mindful that some decorations may not be compatible with the spirit of Shabbat. Please discuss this with the Senior Rabbi (email@example.com).
A Bar/Bat/B’nei Mitzvah is an important event in the life of your family, and it takes place as part of our regular prayer services. As such, we seek to strike a balance between honouring family and friends, and recognizing others who may be observing a special event such as a yahrzeit or a B’nei Mitzvah anniversary. On a Shabbat morning, your family will have the opportunity to assign about 75% of the honours in the service.
The “B’nei Mitzvah Honours Coordinator” will reach out to you to help you assign the honours. You are responsible for informing your guests as to their respective honours. Some honours are reserved for Jews over the age of thirteen, while others may be open to Jewish children as well. Torah honours may only be given to Jewish persons over the age of B’nei mitzvah who are capable of reading the Hebrew blessings.
There are honours that may be assigned to non-Jewish family or friends, notably reading the Prayer for Canada and the Prayer for Peace. The Honours Coordinator can also assist you in finding opportunities for non-Jewish family or friends to participate.
The order of the Aliyot will be determined according to Halachic rules which will be explained by the Honours Coordinator.
Any honour not designated will be assigned to a congregant by the Gabbai; do not feel obligated to fill all honours which have been made available to you.
If you are assigning honours to relatives/friends who are not familiar with a Conservative service, please let the B’nei Mitzvah Honours Coordinator know so that we can make sure that they are ready to participate.
Parents will recite a prayer for their child, which includes the Blessing of Independence. It can be customized to fit your family’s specific dynamic. Should the parents wish to share an entirely different prayer, it must be discussed with the Senior Rabbi and approved 2 weeks in advance of the simchah.
It is customary to lightly shower the B’nei Mitzvah with candies when they have completed reading the Haftarah (or Torah portion at an alternative service time). This is a wonderful celebratory moment. The synagogue will provide baskets of individually wrapped, soft, kosher candy. Customized baskets may be provided by the family.
Some families may consider B’nei mitzvah ceremonies at other venues, whether in Canada, Israel, or elsewhere. Our clergy will work with any member’s child towards their simchah in whatever location, but will generally not be able to leave the congregation over Shabbat to join your family.
B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies may be held at any time when the Torah is traditionally read. This includes Saturday afternoon, Monday and Thursday morning, and Rosh Chodesh mornings (the new moon, or start of the new Hebrew month). We typically do not hold B’nei Mitzvah on Jewish holidays. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing an “off peak” time. Normal attendance at such a service is typically 10-20 people. There may be fewer honours available in the service, but a larger percentage will be available to your family. “Off peak” ceremonies typically offer a more intimate atmosphere, and include less liturgical content than on a Saturday morning.
If your family’s B’nei Mitzvah ceremony takes place on Shabbat afternoon, it will typically consist of two services: Minchah — the afternoon service which includes the Torah reading; and Ma’ariv/Havdallah — the evening service which includes a candle, wine, and spices. The clergy will work with you on the exact timing and pacing of the services. These two services may be back to back, or you may pause in the middle for refreshments and/or speeches. Since we are a Sabbath-observant facility, some types of preparation for the party may not take place until after sundown, which means that we may extend either the service or light refreshments to allow time for party set-up to be completed after sundown.
If your family’s service is not on Shabbat or a festival, then Shabbat restrictions will not be relevant, but Jewish law may set limitations for the start and end time of the service. Please don’t hesitate to talk to the clergy about what might be right for your family.
We look forward to seeing your child shine as they take to the Bimah and embrace what it means to be an adult in the Jewish community.
As part of the service there are opportunities for other loved ones to participate as well.
Below is a list of honours opportunities on Shabbat morning for your family and friends. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Cantor, Rabbi, Gabbai’im, or Honours Coordinator. A complete contact information list appears in item #14, below.
Honours with asterisks are available to non-Jewish family and friends.
Ark Opening #1 (Up to 4 people)
Ark Opening #2 (Up to 4 people)
Ark Opening #3 (Up to 4 people)
Torah Holders (1 to 3 people, depending on the number of scrolls being read)
Aliyot/Torah Blessings (3 plus your child)
Hagbahah (lifting the Torah)—because some scrolls are heavy, please consult with the Honours Coordinator before assigning this honour
Gelilah (tying the Torah)
Prayer for the Congregation (English reading)
Prayer for Canada (English reading)*
Prayer for Peace (responsive English reading)*
Gabbai’s Assistant (helping the Gabbai locate honourees during the service)*
There are a few parts of the service that require skill and preparation. All of these parts may be assigned, but the synagogue must be informed at least three months in advance. We may also ask for the opportunity to review these parts with those to whom they are assigned.
These parts include:
These are parts designated for children, generally under the age of B’nei Mitzvah. They need not be assigned but you are welcome to assign them if you wish.
*Available to non-Jews.
U’va L’Tzion (usually B’nei Mitzvah or Cantor)
Lead Torah Service (usually B’nei Mitzvah)
Ark Opening #1
Hagbahah (lifting the Torah)—because some scrolls are heavy, please consult with the Honours Coordinator before assigning this honour
Gelilah (tying the Torah)
Return Torah to Ark (usually B’nei Mitzvah)
Ark Opening #2
Amidah (usually B’nei Mitzvah or Cantor)
At the conclusion of the Mincha service:
B’nei Mitzvah D’var Torah
Lead Ma’ariv Service
*Available to non-Jews.
Our sages taught that a parent is responsible for their child’s deeds (taking on their merit or sins) until the age of mitzvot; thereafter they must say “Praised are you, Adonai our God, Who rules the universe, Who has freed us of some responsibilities, and conferred new ones upon our child.” Parents are invited to recite a short English reading and the Hebrew form of this prayer following the mitzvah aliyah.
We would be happy to send you the most appropriate text of this reading for your family’s format, gender, and number needs. The most common ones* can be downloaded in PDF format using these links:
*We would be happy to customize the prayer further for those who identify as non-binary or who would prefer gender-neutral language. Please speak with Cantor Green about this (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This outline is designed as a guide in following the flow of the Shabbat service. Page numbers refer to the Sim Shalom Siddur (the smaller, blue prayer book), unless otherwise noted.
Services begin at 9:00 am.
Please advise all persons who will be receiving an honour to arrive well before their honour will occur and identify themselves to the Honours Gabbai who will be greeting people at the door to the sanctuary.
Your guests should be aware that all men and boys are required to have their heads covered at all times when in the building out of respect for our customs. Head coverings for women and girls are optional but encouraged, especially when being called to the Bimah or when carrying a Torah.
Please also advise your guests that the use of cell phones, cameras, and other electronic devices while on the premises is forbidden on Shabbat.
The Torah is taken out between 9:45 and 10:00. Honourees who will be opening and closing the Ark and those carrying the Torah in the procession should arrive no later than 9:30 and those being called up to the Torah very shortly thereafter.
The honourees who will be opening and closing the Ark ascend the Bimah and station themselves on either side. (If there are four then there should be 2 on each side).
The Gabbai prompts the opener(s) on the right side to open the Ark at the proper time and those on the left to close it. Please ensure that these honourees understand that they must wait until prompted.
The B’nei Mitzvah goes up to the Ark and holds the Torah when the Shema is recited. He/she then passes the Torah off to the person designated to carry it in the procession. The Torah leads the procession followed by the crown carrier, the B’nei Mitzvah, the Rabbi and a senior Board member.
As the Torah reading begins, each person receiving an Aliyah is asked by the Honours Gabbai to move to a designated seat in the front row prior to being called. Each honouree will have been given a silver tag with their honour engraved on it.
Once their turn comes, the Gabbai Rishon calls each individual by their Hebrew name to come up and receive their honour. They then go up to the Bimah, move to their right, and present the silver tag to the Gabbai.
They then proceed to stand on the right side of the Ba’al Koreh (Torah reader) and read the blessings before and after the reading following the Ba’al Koreh’s directions.
After their Aliyah is done they move to the right again and remain during the following Aliyah after which they may descend from the Bimah and be congratulated by the Clergy and nearby congregants.
On a normal Shabbat the lifting and tying of the Torah occurs following the Maftir Aliyah (the 8th aliyah). However on special occasions when two Torahs are taken out, the first Torah is lifted and tied after the 7th aliyah and the Maftir portion is then read from the second Torah which is lifted and tied after Maftir.
Whichever the case, the Honours Gabbai ensures that these persons are brought forward when their turn comes.
The B’nei Mitzvah speaks for a few minutes on the weekly Torah portion.
Following the Torah reading and the lifting and tying of the Torah the B’nei Mitzvah chants the Haftarah.
In order to allow the congregation to listen without distraction, the doors to the sanctuary are closed during this recitation and movement about the room is discouraged. There is one exception: one or two younger family members may pass out soft, wrapped, kosher candies to the congregation at this time.
At the conclusion of the Haftarah and the closing blessings, the congregation showers the B’nei Mitzvah with the candies. Note that they are not meant to be projectiles! It is the responsibility of all of the younger children present to ensure that no candy is left on the floor of the Bimah.
The Rabbi takes a few minutes to introduce the B’nei Mitzvah to the Congregation and perform a special blessing with the family. The Cantor will offer a special musical blessing.
Honourees that will be reading the first three of these are asked to move up to the front at this time and called up as a group to read. The prayer for Israel is usually chanted by the Cantor with Congregational participation.
Once a month on the Shabbat immediately preceding the new moon (Rosh Chodesh) a special blessing is chanted by the Cantor with a congregant holding the Torah.
The Ashrei prayer is chanted. It is customary for the B’nei Mitzvah to lead the prayer with a group of friends and/or siblings, responsively with the congregation.
At the end of Ashrei, the Torah is taken from its stand and handed to the designated carrier for the procession to return it to the ark. The Honours Gabbai leads the carrier to the proper place to receive the hand-off and gives direction as to the route to follow.
The procession consists of the Torah carrier, the B’nei Mitzvah, the Cantor, the Rabbi, and a senior Board member (sometimes a member of Tamir holds the crown and/or breast plate as well).
At the same time the honourees who will be opening and closing the ark are directed to go up to the ark and prepare to open when the Gabbai Rishon prompts them to do so.
The Torah is placed in the Ark and after the Cantor chants the Eitz Chayim prayer the Ark is closed.
The Rabbi delivers the sermon at this time.
The Musaf service is normally led by the Cantor.
The President announces items of interest to the congregation.
These prayers may be led by the B’nei Mitzvah or a group of young people from the congregation.
Normally led by the Rabbi.
May be led by the B’nei Mitzvah or a group of young people from the congregation.
Blessings over grape juice and Challah, usually led by a family member.
E-mail is the best way to reach our caring staff and clergy, though our office phone numbers are below.
|Cantor Jason Green||B’nei Mitzvah Program Coordinatoremail@example.com||613-728-3501 x239|
|Rabbi Eytan Kenter||Senior Rabbi, D’var Torah, Mitzvah firstname.lastname@example.org||613-728-3501 x222|
|Rena Garshowitz||Executive Director, Facilities, Cateringemail@example.com||613-728-3501 x225|
|Helen Zipes*||B’nei Mitzvah Honours Coordintorfirstname.lastname@example.org||613-723-5440 (cell)|
*This contact may change from time to time. They will reach out to you at the appropriate time.