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Frequently Asked Questions

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As you embark on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process with your family, you may find that you have a lot of questions. We're here with answers to alleviate your concerns.

What is the process and with whom will my child work?
What does my child need to know?
Is my child required to do a Mitzvah Project?
What is our family’s role during the weekend?
How many aliyot are there?
What are the requirements of the parents’ prayer?
Why does my child have to have a partner?
What are the dress requirements for services and does my child need to wear a tallit or kippah?
What time are services on Friday night and Saturday?
Can we arrange for pictures and/or videos to be taken before and during the ceremony?

What is the process and with whom will my child work?

Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation commences approximately 24 weeks prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The Cantor’s office will contact you at that time to arrange the 12 weeks of individual appointments with one of our tutors.  A month later, 20 weeks prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the student will begin these weekly individual appointments. After 12 weeks, your child will be assigned to a rabbi or cantor with whom s/he will work for the remaining 8 weeks prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The 8 weeks consist of 4 weeks of 30 minute individual appointments and 4 weeks of hour-long sanctuary/chapel rehearsals with the same rabbi/cantor. If the student has a partner, the final 4 weeks of sanctuary/chapel rehearsals are with the partner.  

Please note: Adjustments are made to the schedule in the event that a student’s training is to span the summer, winter, or spring vacations.

What does my child need to know?

Your child will participate in both the Friday evening Shabbat service, as well as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service.  For the Friday evening Shabbat service, your child will take part in the Kiddush at the end of the service, which means your child will need to know the Shabbat Kiddush. For the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, your child will need to know the V’ahavta, the Avot, the G’vurot, the Torah blessings, the Haftarah blessings, and the assigned Torah and Haftarah portions. All of this will be covered in their sessions with the tutor; however, to best prepare your child, it is required that s/he attend religious school regularly beginning in 3rd grade when s/he will begin Hebrew.  

Is my child required to do a Mitzvah Project?

At Washington Hebrew Congregation, we do not require our students to do a Mitzvah Project. That said, we do highly recommend that the students do a project in honor of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and this is the focus of one of our B’nei Mitzvah meetings in the years prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Almost every one of our B’nei Mitzvah children choose to do a Mitzvah Project and find this to be a very rewarding and satisfying part of the B’nei Mitzvah process.

What is our family’s role during the weekend?

At the Friday evening Shabbat service on the weekend of your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the mothers of the weekend’s B’nei Mitzvah will be called upon to lead the congregation in the blessing over the Shabbat candles. Towards the end of the service, your child will be called to the bimah by a Washington Hebrew Congregation board member to receive the Kamy Loren Nathanson Kiddush Cup along with the other B’nei Mitzvah of the weekend. Finally, the fathers of the B’nei Mitzvah will join the clergy in sitting on the bimah and standing in the receiving line following the service.  

At the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, you, the parents, will join your child in sitting on the bimah. During the Torah service, you will have the opportunity to give your child a blessing as you pass the Torah to him/her. This parent prayer should be no more than one page, 14 pt. font, double spaced, even if both parents are speaking. Other roles for you family include reciting the blessings over the Torah (aliyah).

Prior to your Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend, you and your child will be expected to usher at a service, as a family, approximately one month prior to your Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. (We will contact you by letter to arrange this.) If you are having a morning service, you will usher at a morning service; if you are having an  afternoon/Havdalah service, you will usher at an afternoon/Havdalah service. This will help you to better understand the roles you will be playing in just a few short weeks. There will be a staff usher from Washington Hebrew Congregation present to explain your role and duties as an usher. To aid in this process, you will need to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of the service on the day that your family is to usher.  

How many aliyot are there?

The Torah portion read by your child will be divided into three sections, known as aliyot (plural of aliyah; a section comprised of at least three verses of Torah). Each aliyah is preceded and followed by a blessing. Your child will chant the blessing before and after the first aliyah. This leaves two aliyot, each with a blessing before and a blessing after. We invite you to honor your family by letting them partake in the chanting or reading of these blessings.

Click here for a copy of the Torah blessings.

What are the requirements of the parents’ prayer?

The parents’ prayer is given just before you pass the Torah to your child. When writing this blessing, keep in mind that your child has not yet chanted his/her Torah portion. The parent prayer is an opportunity for you to tell your child how proud you are of him/her and what you wish for his/her future. Both parents are welcome to speak, however the maximum page length is one page, 14 pt. font, double spaced.

For examples, please click here.

Why does my child have to have a partner?

Having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah partner is a wonderful opportunity for your family and your child to create new and lasting relationships with another Washington Hebrew Congregation family. When we assign the B’nei Mitzvah dates every year, all of our children are paired with a partner in order for us to accommodate all of our new adults. Due to various circumstances (i.e. families moving, health issues), some of our students may end up without a partner, but the bulk of our B’nei Mitzvah celebrate their ceremony with a partner.  

What are the dress requirements for services and does my child need to wear a tallit or kippah?

As Reform Jews, the wearing of ritual items (i.e. tallit, kippah) are a matter of personal choice. We support any decision you and/or your child makes in this regard.

The dress code for those who will join us on the bimah is as follows:

For ladies, including our young adults who are celebrating their Bat Mitzvah, we remind you that modesty should be considered and conservative suits and dresses are the appropriate wear. Shoulders and knees should be covered at all times while in the sanctuary or chapel, plunging necklines should be avoided and formal wear is not appropriate for services.

For gentleman, including our young adults who are celebrating their Bar Mitzvah, conservative suits are appropriate. Black tie attire is never appropriate dress for congregational services. Please also remind your guests that shoulders should be covered for the service.   

What time are services on Friday night and Saturday?

Friday evening Shabbat services begin promptly at 6:00 pm. On Hanukkah, Simchat Torah, and Purim, the Friday evening service will begin promptly at 7:00 pm. Please make sure to call the Temple before making arrangements for a family dinner to confirm the time of the service. We also recommend calling a month prior to the service to reconfirm as changes occasionally are made to the service schedule. Your family will need to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of the service when you will meet in Rabbi Lustig’s study.  

Saturday morning Shabbat services begin promptly at 10:30 am and end around noon. The B’nei Mitzvah families should arrive no later than 10:00 am when they will meet in the Rabbi’s study. Please request that your guests arrive a few minutes before the service begins so they may seat themselves prior to the start of the service.  

Saturday afternoon Shabbat/Havdalah services begin promptly at 5:30 pm and end around 7:00 pm. The B’nei Mitzvah families should arrive no later than 5:00 pm when they will meet in the Rabbi’s study. Please request that your guests arrive a few minutes before the service begins so they may seat themselves prior to the start of the service.   

Can we arrange for pictures and/or videos to be taken before and during the ceremony?

Yes!! Recording equipment is allowed; however, it must not disturb the service in any way and therefore we have important policies regarding recording equipment and cameras at our services.

Videos and photographs by professional videographers and photographers are allowed from the balcony of the Kaufmann Sanctuary and in the back of the Albert and Shirley Small Chapel. The videographer and photographer must be stationary in a single spot throughout the service so as not to distract from the service. Also, flash photography is not permitted nor are extra lights for a video. If you choose to take pictures ahead of time, either before the service or before or after a rehearsal, you will need to coordinate your time with one of the Rabbinic Assistants. Please call 202-362-7100 in advance to schedule your appointment.   

Please contact the Cantor’s Office at 202-895-6309 for specific questions regarding your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  

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