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Bar / Bat Mitzvah

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Becoming a fully-fledged adult member of the Jewish community is an important milestone which deserves considerable preparation and consideration. The Hale Shule team are happy to help arrange Bar Mitzvah and Bat Chayil ceremonies and celebrations in the Shule and Pearl Suite Banqueting Facility, but we advise people to book their dates and commence their preparations well in advance!

Bar MitzvahBar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Classes
In the school year in which girls turn 11 and boys turn 12, they are eligible for Hale’s special 2-year Challenge Programme, designed to prepare them for their Jewish coming of age. Challenge is led by the Hale Youth Leaders, Avner and Sarah Brodie, and is designed to relate Jewish values to aspects of contemporary society and developing life skills, using film and IT resources to stimulate group discussion and lively interaction.

From January to June of the year of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, students will be invited to join special workshops about issues of concern to young adults, led by Rabbi Joel and Rebetzin Ruthie Portnoy. Every year, this privileged group also enjoys a Residential Shabbaton together.

batmitzvahBat Mitzvah
In Hale, a Bat Chayil Ceremony is usually held on a Sunday in the Shule and girls can choose to have a private or a group ceremony to mark their coming of age. The service includes a programme of readings and explanations of meaningful prayers and texts, with a choice of different musical accompaniment styles. Each girl can customize the rest of her ceremony with a project which she has prepared with her family, with themes in Judaism which interest her, for example the attribute of kindness or Jewish women who have inspired her.

Some families prefer simply to have a private party or a Seudah (festive meal) without a public ceremony. In all cases, the Bat Mitzvah and her family are encouraged to discuss their preferences with the Rabbi and Ruthie. Member families often also sponsor a community Shabbat Kiddush in celebration of the Bat Mitzvah.

Bar Mitzvah Preparation
The process of preparing for the Bar Mitzvah Shabbat is unique to Hale Shule. Instead of long Bar Mitzvah lessons and rote learning, the Rabbi has developed a special course on learning to lein from the Torah and read a Haftorah, which is taught to father* and son together. They will have short weekly learning sessions from 16 months before the Bar Mitzvah Shabbat, so that they can both acquire the skills necessary to read from the Torah and the Haftorah. In this way, we encourage father and son to learn and grow together, becoming capable of leining any Parsha throughout their lives.  These sessions are taught by Modi Spitzer and each boy and his father have a monthly review with the Rabbi. 

* A different adult can undertake this role where necessary.

Another exciting step in the preparation process is to order the Bar Mitzvah’s first set of Tefillin, and we encourage father and son, and other family members, to visit one of the local Soferim together to see his Tefillin being assembled and customised to fit. Rabbi Portnoy usually teaches each boy how to put on his Tefillin – another step towards Jewish maturity.

Bar Mitzvah Celebration
In addition to celebrating their Bar Mitzvah in Shule on Shabbat, if his actual Jewish birthday falls earlier in the week, he can also take up his first opportunity for an Aliyah to the Torah and try out his new leining skills at a Monday or Thursday service. This, of course, is an excuse for another party – a celebratory breakfast Seudah!

On the Shabbat of a Bar Mitzvah, Hale Shule is delighted to host the family of the Bar Mitzvah and to dedicate most of the Mitzvah and Aliyah opportunities to them. Rabbi Portnoy will also dedicate his sermon to addressing the newest full member of the Hale Community. Singing, dancing and the throwing of sweets make this a truly joyous and memorable occasion, usually culminating in a community Kiddush hosted by the Bar Mitzvah family.