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When a student becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Temple B’nai Chaim, this experience resonates at several levels. First, the student who is becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, is publicly declaring his or her desire to be considered as a responsible, mature Jew. The student is also taking on a personal challenge to master the skills necessary to lead our congregational service. For most young people, this is the single most important event that they have ever had to prepare for individually. There is an incredible sense of achievement as they reach this day successfully.

For the parents, having a son or daughter become a B’nai Mitzvah is a time when your own Jewish values and priorities come into focus. Physically, you may notice that you are at Temple more often: for services, coaching, and meeting with the Rabbi. Intellectually, you may decide to learn to read Hebrew to support your child or to study your child’s Torah portion in preparation for your parent’s speech. Spiritually, you may find yourself contemplating the meaning of your own Jewish identity and the importance of passing on your heritage to your child. This is a time when you may feel incredibly proud and yet anxious at the same time. It is a remarkably powerful and awesome experience in which we, as parents, grow in many ways. Know that your role is vital in helping your child reach this milestone in their lives.

For the congregation, each student who chooses to become a B’nai Mitzvah brings a measure of strength to us. We feel the vitality of being a thriving Jewish community when we see the tangible evidence that our religious school has yielded. As each young man or woman mounts the steps to the bimah and conducts the service with confidence and knowledge, we swell with nachas, a sense of pride for one of our own.

For the Rabbi (and for all the professional and volunteer staff who work with our students), the B’nai Mitzvah of each child is a unique occurrence, richly laden with significance. On the day of becoming a B’nai Mitzvah, the young man or woman symbolically assumes the mantle of Jewish spiritual leader as they put on their tallit and face the congregation.

We gaze up at them and ponder their future. Who will they become and how will Judaism fit into their lives? Will they continue studying through our high school program (we pray yes) or will today be their graduation from Jewish learning (what a shame!). Will they bring honor to their people as they are doing today, or will their name become a void in our collective entity? Is today a false promise of Jewish continuity, or the beginning of a deeper commitment to a Jewish life? We smile up at them, feeling blessed to have brought them to this day, trusting in faith and eternally hopeful for their future as well as ours.