B’nei Mitzvah

It’s an incredibly proud moment for our entire community when a young person embraces Torah as their own and becomes a b’nei mitzvah at WHC. 

“B’nei mitzvah” means a “child of God’s commandments,” and it symbolizes the transformation from childhood to adulthood in the eyes of our faith, a spiritually meaningful milestone for the young adult, their family, and their community. 

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At 13, a b’nei mitzvah is not yet an adult, but they are also no longer a child.

They are old enough to start thinking about ideas and concepts on a higher level and to ask questions about their Jewish identity.

When a b’nei mitzvah recites the blessings over the Torah, they are affirming that they are old enough to be responsible for all that is being passed to them – our traditions, rituals, teachings, and culture – and that they will uphold, cherish, and, in turn, pass it to the next generation. 

Note: While “bar mitzvah” denotes a male, and “bat mitzvah” a female, here we use “b’nei mitzvah,” which applies to any gender as well as a ceremony that includes more than one child. 

A Brief History

The ceremony around becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is relatively recent in Jewish history. While in the Talmud the phrase bar mitzvah, which means “child of God’s commandments,” is used to indicate a boy reaching majority age, it is not until around the 15th century that a ceremony took place in the synagogue to celebrate such an event. The age of majority was 13 years and a day for boys and 12 years and a day for girls. B’nei Mitzvah, then, began as a phrase indicating one’s status, not an event. Just as one becomes old enough to vote at age 18 today, one became old enough to keep, and be responsible for fulfilling, God’s mitzvot (commandments) and became eligible to read from the Torah when one became a B’nei Mitzvah.  

One becomes responsible for performing God’s commandments, such as visiting the sick, honoring one’s parents, attending weddings and funerals, studying Torah, fasting on Yom Kippur, keeping Shabbat, etc. In other words, the young person now as an adult in the community must face one of life’s most important questions: what does God command of me? 

Today, we understand at age 13, a young person is no longer a child but not yet an adult. The young student is beginning to think about ideas and concepts on a higher level, and as adolescence approaches, to ask questions about identity. The B’nei Mitzvah process addresses these changes in a young person’s life. 

In 1864, Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of the Reform Movement in America, introduced the concept of Confirmation to the American synagogue, where young people in 10th grade learned and recited the principles of Judaism. For approximately a century in Reform congregations, Confirmation replaced the B’nei Mitzvah ceremony. By the 1970s, however, the B’nei Mitzvah ceremony returned to its status as the most popular ceremony for young Jewish people. 

Some claim that the first Bat Mitzvah was that of Judith Kaplan, daughter of the famous scholar Mordecai Kaplan in 1922. Others claim it occurred earlier in Europe. Today, in Reform and Conservative synagogues, the Bat Mitzvah is a completely equal ceremony for female students.   

The ceremony that we have today consists of several parts which are meant to demonstrate that our B’nei Mitzvah are educated enough to assume the basic responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. Each student leads part of the prayer service. The main part of the ceremony is being called to the Torah for the first time in the student’s life. The student chants the Torah blessings and at least one section of Torah (traditionally called the maftir, or concluding section of the Torah portion) or other select verses from the weekly parshah (weekly Torah portion) as we do here at Washington Hebrew Congregation. The student then chants the Haftarah blessings and a Haftarah portion, which is a related section from the Prophets or Writings of the Hebrew Bible. Finally, the student teaches the congregation the lesson of the Torah portion, called a derasha or a d’var Torah. 

Today, in Reform and Conservative synagogues, the b’nei mitzvah ceremony is the same regardless of gender. 

Sources:  Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 81b; Pirkei Avot 5:21; Mark Washofsky, Jewish Living, 2001; www.myjewishlearning.com. 

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About the Service at WHC

A young adult celebrates becoming b’nei mitzvah at Washington Hebrew by reading from the Torah publicly for the first time – most often during our Saturday morning and afternoon Shabbat services. 

In addition to being called to and reading from the Torah, during the service, the b’nei mitzvah will also lead the congregation in prayer, read from the Haftarah (a selection from the Prophets), and share their thoughts on the Torah portion and its connection to our lives through a d’ var Torah (words of Torah). 

It is truly a Shehecheyanu moment! 

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Resources for Parents and Guardians

As your child prepares for the journey toward becoming a b’nei mitzvah, you may wonder, what is my role during this time? What can I do to help? We have answers – and resources – to make your child’s b’nei mitzvah experience special for the entire family.

There are three family b’nei mitzvah programs in the years leading up to your child’s special day.

Three years before your child’s 13th birthday, you and your child will attend the first of three b’nei mitzvah family programs. During this program, we will discuss the unique perspective each person brings to the study of Torah.  At the conclusion of this discussion, you will have the opportunity to pass the Torah to your child for the first time.  Following this program, you’ll receive a date informational form, beginning a journey that will culminate in another beautiful (and often teary) passing of the Torah from you to your child on our bimah. 

Our second family program – a Shabbat service and dinner – occurs when your child is in fifth grade. The goal is to help students and families better understand the flow of our service and liturgy. 

The final family program takes place in sixth grade, when you and your child learn about mitzvah projects and why they are an important part of this journey. At this program, you will also study important passages from the Torah taken from the same book as your child’s assigned b’nei mitzvah portion. 


One magical spring day about three years before your child’s 13th birthday, you will go to your mailbox and find a letter from Washington Hebrew Congregation addressed to your child with their b’nei mitzvah date. Receiving this letter is a reason to celebrate your growing childHere are some ways you can make this moment memorable.   

Attend Shabbat services and imagine how it will feel three years from now, enjoy a festive Shabbat dinner with extended family, look up and talk about your child’s Torah portion. There are so many wonderful ways in which to recognize this occasion; we hope that your celebration will be something you always remember. 

While some families will naturally begin to think about the social aspects of this special milestone, we urge you to focus on the importance of your child’s growth and development during the b’nei mitzvah process. We know you have been looking forward to this moment for a long time. We wish you a hearty mazel tov and look forward to preparing for and celebrating this simcha with you and your family! 

 


Preparing for the b’nei mitzvah can feel overwhelming, but our clergy treasure the bonds they form with each student and their family during this special time. They will give your child the individual attention they need to feel ready. We look forward to working with you and your child as you approach this wonderful milestone! 

About 6 months before the big day: Our cantor’s office and tutors will contact you to arrange your child’s tutoring schedule. 

5 months away: individual tutoring begins. Your child and their tutor will have 12 weekly 30-minute appointments. We adjust tutoring schedules to avoid conflicts with summer, winter, or spring breaks and encourage you to attend the tutoring sessions if you are able. 

2 months to go: Once your child has completed tutoring, they will meet four times with one of the rabbis or cantors who will be with them on the bimah at their b’nei mitzvah. During these weekly half-hour appointments, the clergy will get to know your child, help them polish the reading of their Torah, Haftarah, and prayers, and guide them to understand their Torah portion so that they can write their d’var Torah (words of Torah). 

1 month to go: Hour-long rehearsals in the chapel or sanctuary begin. If your child has a b’nei mitzvah partner, the partner will be there too. The same rabbi or cantor who has been working with your child for the past month will focus on getting them comfortable with the space, the microphones, and speaking slowly and loudly. They will explain and rehearse the service with your child, practicing the Hebrew and English prayers, Torah portion Haftarah portion, their d’var Torah, and the prayer they will lead during the Friday evening service. We encourage you to join us for these rehearsals. 

1 week to go: The final rehearsal before the b’nei mitzvah service will be with your child’s partner and both sets of parents. We ask you to be there so that you can also feel comfortable in the space and practice your parts, i.e. Torah blessings, removing the Torah from and returning it to the Ark, passing the Torah, and running through the choreography of the service. 


Resources for B’nei Mitzvah Students

two teens on the bima receiving their kiddush cup

Learning the Blessings

During the weekend of your b’nei mitzvah celebration, you will participate in both our Friday evening and Saturday Shabbat services. Practicing the prayers in advance with your tutor and at home with your family will help you recite them successfully and with confidence. 

Click on a link below to download a pdf or listen to an audio file of the prayer. 

Shabbat KiddushAudioText
V'ahavtaAudioText
AvotAudioText
Shabbat Shuva AvotAudioText
Summer G'vurotAudioText
Winter G'vurotAudioText
Shabbat Shuva G'vurotAudioText
Blessing Before Reading TorahAudioText
Blessing After Reading TorahAudioText
Blessing Before HaftarahAudioText
Blessing After HaftarahAudioText

Studying Your Torah Portion

Studying your Torah portion doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary. We are here to introduce you to the basics of the Torah and to help get your studying off to a great start. 

The Torah is the first part of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanach), which is followed by the Prophets and the Writings. The stories and laws in the Torah are roughly 3,500 years old. The Torah is made up of the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 


The Book of Genesis (B’reishit) begins with the story of creation. As God says, “Let there be light!” and affirms that we live in a good world. We read about Adam and Eve and their children, Cain and Abel. The stories continue with Noah and the Flood and the Tower of Babel. Then the focus shifts from these earth-shaking events to the later stories of one man, Abraham. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel are the protagonists of the rest of the stories, telling the deeds of our ancestors. Each of these men and women are nomads, wandering through the land that God promises them, each with their own personal visions of and relationship with God. The longest story is the tale of Joseph and his brothers, the children of Jacob. The Book of Genesis ends with the children of Jacob in the land of Egypt, having traveled there for food to survive a famine. They settle there and grow numerous. 


The Book of Exodus (Sh’mot) resumes the tale of the children of Jacob, now called the Israelites. A new Pharaoh comes to power in Egypt, sees how numerous the Israelites have become, and enslaves all of the Israelites. God selects a deliverer, Moses, to confront Pharaoh and liberate the people. After ten plagues, Moses, with his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam, leads the Israelites out of Egypt. They are pursued by Pharaoh and his army. Through a miracle, they cross the Sea of Reeds on dry land while Pharaoh and his army are caught in the waters and drown. 

Newly freed, the Israelites then proceed to Mount Sinai, where they watch Moses ascend the mountain to speak to God. While he is gone, they lose faith that he will return and they build a golden calf as an object of worship. When Moses returns down the mountain with two tablets proclaiming the Ten Commandments, he expresses God’s rage and destroys the tablets and the idol. After the people repent, Moses returns to God on top of the mountain and carves a new set of tablets. The people also build a sanctuary for God, a portable tent called a Tabernacle. As they leave Mount Sinai, God’s presence rests above the tent in the form of a pillar of cloud. With them are both sets of the tablets of the law, the newly carved version by Moses and the original broken set, and the many other commandments that Moses reveals to the people. 


The middle book of the Torah, Leviticus (Vayikra), examines the laws and rules for those who serve in God’s sanctuary, the Tabernacle, which serves as a paradigm for those later in history who would serve in the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests (cohanim) and Levites facilitate the people’s worship of God. Among the topics listed here are all of the holidays and daily offerings in the form of sacrifices. Other laws, such as rules to leave food for the poor and protections for widows, orphans, and strangers, are also listed in detail. The most famous commandment in Leviticus is: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). 


Beginning with a census of the Israelites, Numbers (Bamidbar) tells the story of the Israelites as they travel through the wilderness towards the Land of Israel, the Promised Land. The challenges resume when Moses and God attempt to prepare the Israelites to invade the Land of Israel and take it from the idolatrous nations known for, among other things, child sacrifice. After sending spies to scout out the land, however, the people balk at the idea of invading. They lack faith and courage in their mission. For this reason, this generation, raised in slavery in Egypt, will wander in the wilderness for the rest of their lives. It will be their children, raised as nomads, who will have the strength to stand up and fight. 

The trials of the Israelites in the wilderness follow a pattern. The Israelites were rescued by God from Egypt, but they remain devout so long as everything is going well. At the beginning of any kind of hardship, they lose faith and complain that life was better back in Egypt. In response, God stops protecting them. They discover how bad life could really be as they meet with more catastrophes, made worse by God’s withdrawal. When they repent, however, the people find God’s providence restored. In this way, the Israelites face the challenges of thirst, fire, and wild beasts, as well as the internal strife of rebellion. As the generation of slaves passes away, the new generation, led by Joshua, prepares to assume their inheritance. 


Deuteronomy (D’varim) consists of three speeches Moses gives to the Israelites at the border of the Promised Land that they are about to invade and claim for their own. Moses stresses that their relationship to the land depends upon their relationship with God. If they follow all of God’s commandments, they will enjoy abundance and blessing. If they rebel against God, they will endure suffering and curses and eventually be exiled. Moses declares the unity of God with the words, “Hear O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is one!” and cautions the Israelites not to imitate the practices of the idolatrous nations they are fighting. Moses tells them that free will is given to each of them—that before each of them lay life and blessing, death and curse. He begs them to choose life, that they and their descendants will live for a long time in the land of their ancestors. Moses dies,  unable to enter the Promised Land himself. 


  1. Read your Torah portion in EnglishIn which book is it found? Which chapter and which verses? (A biblical citation looks like this: Genesis 1:27-28. “Genesis” is the book. “1” is the chapter. And “27-28” are the verses or lines.) 
  2. Once you have found the book, chapter, and verses, read the summary of the book of the Torah above. What is the literary context of the passage? What happened just before? What happens afterward? 
  3. Write a summary of the Torah portion in your own words, as if you are explaining it to someone who has never heard of the Torah before. Be sure to explain the passage’s who, what, when, where, and why. 
  4. Now that you understand what the Torah is saying, try to figure out what the Torah means. What lesson(s) do you think the Torah might be teaching? Remember that all of the stories in the Torah are parables, meaning that they are like fables that have a moral. What do the different things in the story symbolize? 
  5. What is the historical context of the passage? What is the same about the historical times then and now? What is different? 
  6. Find out from your rabbi or cantor what Judaism says about this passage. Many people have written commentaries about the Torah. Ask about these commentaries. In addition, ask if there are any practices today that Jews observe that emphasize this passage. 
  7. Does the passage from the Torah remind you of anything personal in your life? In the life of your family? What do you think the Torah is trying to teach you? 

The D’var Torah

After you read from the Torah and Haftarah (taken from a book of the Prophets), you will read a d’var Torah (literally, “word of Torah”) that you’ve written, explaining part of your Torah portion and how it is meaningful for us today.

You will have plenty of time and guidance as you write your d’var Torah.

Here’s an overview of what’s included in a d’var Torah:

Part 1: A summary of your Torah portion in your own words.

Part 2: You’ll teach the congregation something about your Torah portion. Emphasize a specific point in the Torah portion and relate it to yourself, the congregation, and/or the times in which we live. Show us what we can learn from this portion – in other words, give us the moral. You may then go a step further and give the congregation an opportunity to follow through on the lesson by giving specific examples of what they can do to fulfill your message.

Part 3: You’ll share what it means to you to become a b’nei mitzvah. If you performed a Mitzvah Project, mention it and the lessons learned along the way and the positive feelings it enabled you to experience.

Part 4: It’s time to officially and publicly thank the people who helped you achieve this milestone. Remember, you do not need to thank everyone by name. Also, don’t forget to congratulate your partner in this section if it applies to you. (This should be the shortest section of your speech!)

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! And remember…

We hold Early Torah Study every Saturday morning at 9:00 am; everyone is welcome. There’s no background knowledge or familiarity with Hebrew needed to participate. At Friday evening  Shabbat services, there is often a brief Torah study on the week’s portion, and our clergy always give a sermon that illustrates how the Torah lives in our time.

Take advantage of the many educational opportunities the Temple offers!

Mitzvah Project Ideas

When one reaches the age of adulthood in Judaism, it is incumbent upon them to fulfill the mitzvot that God has commanded rather than letting their parents fulfill the mitzvot on their behalf. To honor this new responsibility, it is our custom for b’nei mitzvah to perform a Mitzvah Project. The Mitzvah Project can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. When choosing a Mitzvah Project, we recommend you look for something you are passionate about. Brainstorming as a family can help you find a meaningful choice for your project. It can also allow your family to embark upon the project together, adding more meaning to the b’nei mitzvah process.

To help you on your journey, our 6th grade Family B’nei Mitzvah program will cover Mitzvah Projects. In addition, we have collected a list of Mitzvah Project ideas completed by past b’nei mitzvah at Washington Hebrew Congregation. For more project ideas, visit themitzvahbowl.com or read The Mitzvah Project Book by Liz Suneby and WHC member Diane Heiman.

A Cause for Celebration

A b’nei mitzvah is a time to celebrate, and Washington Hebrew Congregation has beautiful facilities both at Temple and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center at which you can host your celebration.

We can accommodate groups large and small for private Shabbat dinners, Kiddush luncheons, and afternoon or evening receptions. Our event coordinators are happy to provide you with information about all of our spaces.

Find out more about our facilities

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Frequently Asked Questions

As you embark on the b’nei mitzvah process with your family, you may find that you have a lot of questions. We’re here with answers to alleviate your concerns.

Bnei Mitzvah preparation commences approximately 24 weeks prior to the b’nei mitzvah. The Cantor’s Office will email your materials and connect you with your child’s tutor, who will then contact you to arrange the 12 weeks of individual appointmentsA month later, 20 weeks before the b’nei mitzvah, your child will begin these weekly individual appointments. After 12 weeks, your child will be assigned to a rabbi or cantor who will work for the remaining eight weeks before the b’nei mitzvah with your child. The eight weeks consist of 4 weeks of 30-minute individual appointments and four weeks of hour-long sanctuary/chapel rehearsals with the same rabbi/cantor. If your child has a partner, the final four weeks of sanctuary/chapel rehearsals will be with the partner. 

Please note: Adjustments are made to the schedule if a student’s training spans the summer, winter, or spring vacations. 


Your child will help to lead pieces of the Friday evening Shabbat service, as well as the Saturday morning Shabbat service.  On the Friday before their b’nei mitzvah, each child recites the Shabbat Kiddush. For the Saturday morning Shabbat service, students lead the V’ahavta, Avot, G’vurot, Torah blessings, Haftarah blessings, and their assigned Torah and Haftarah portions. In addition, each child works with our clergy to write their own d’var Torah, elucidating the message of their assigned Torah portion. Private tutoring sessions with an induvial tutor, clergy meetings, and rehearsals prepare each child for their special milestone.  

WHC requires that children be enrolled in Religious School by 3rd grade, if not earlier. Our expectation is that students attend Religious School regularly. There, they will participate in opportunities that prepare each child for their private b’nei mitzvah tutoring sessions.  

The Religious School program includes Hebrew lessons and regular prayer (tefillah) opportunities, all of which make the journey towards becoming b’nei mitzvah more meaningful and accessible. In the absence of regular attendance, students may require additional private tutoring sessions, which will not be covered by WHC. 


Washington Hebrew Congregation is committed to working with any child who, in partnership with their family, seeks to become b’nei mitzvah. We know some children require an alternative pathway; we would be honored to work individually with each child and invite families to please reach out so we can ensure we accommodate any needs you may have.    


We assign b’nei mitzvah dates as close to your child’s 13th birthday as possible.  Each year, we read through the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, in full.  The Torah portion, or parsha, they learn will correspond with the date of their b’nei mitzvah service in the annual cycle of parshiyot (plural of parsha).

Contrary to how it sounds, the Haftarah portion is not a “half-Torah.”  The word Haftarah means “the thing that comes after.”  It is taken from a section of the Hebrew Bible written after the Five Books of Moses and chanted after the Torah in the service.

Each parsha has a corresponding Haftarah portion. During the 1st century CE, Jews were not allowed to study or read Torah, so the rabbis of the Mishna (pre-Talmudic scholars of Jewish law) selected passages from the books of the Prophets that connected thematically to each week’s Torah reading. Although we are free to read and study Torah as American Jews today, we still chant from the Haftarah to honor all the points in Jewish history when our rights to study, learn, and live were restricted and the ways in which our tradition has survived for thousands of years through adaptation, creativity, and scholarship.


Washington Hebrew Congregation does 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 b’nei mitzvah, and this is one focus of our b’nei mitzvah family meeting in 6th grade. Almost every one of our b’nei mitzvah children chooses to do a Mitzvah Project and finds this to be a very rewarding and satisfying part of the b’nei mitzvah process.  


You do not have to be fluent in Hebrew, or even a Hebrew reader, to help your child study and prepare. They are responsible for the Hebrew and we will give them all the tools they need to succeed. You can help by making sure your student practices consistently – we recommend 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, from the time that they begin working with their tutor. Consistency is the key! A little bit every day will help your child progress so much more quickly than spending an hour or two cramming on weekends. You can also listen to your child practicing their Torah portion, Haftarah, and prayers. The more you’re involved in their preparation to become b’nei mitzvah, the more they will understand that Jewish life is about family, community, and Jewish heritage l’dor vador, from one generation to the next. And what’s more, if they are used to chanting their Hebrew in front of you, leading the service will not feel so intimidating! Additionally, an important way you can help prepare your child is to prioritize Hebrew school beginning in 3rd grade.  The more practice your child has with the language of Hebrew, the easier the B’nei mitzvah process will be for your child and you.


At the Friday evening Shabbat service on the weekend of your child’s b’nei mitzvah, the parents 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, the weekend’s b’nei mitzvah will be called to the bimah by a Washington Hebrew Congregation board member to receive their Kamy Loren Nathanson Kiddush Cup and to lead the congregation in the Kiddush. This participation in our Shabbat evening service allows the congregation to celebrate your child and your family as you reach this important milestone. It is also a wonderful way for your child to get the jitters out. Our students often realize that leading the congregation in prayer is nothing to fear, which then puts them in a more relaxed place for the Saturday Shabbat service. 

At the b’nei mitzvah service, you, the parents, will join your child and sit on the bimah. During the Torah service, you will have the opportunity to give your child a blessing as you pass the Torah to them. This parent prayer should be no more than one page, 14 pt. font, double-spaced, even if both parents are speaking. Other roles for your family include reciting the blessings over the Torah (aliyah) and leading the congregation in Motzi at the end of the service. 

Before your b’nei mitzvah weekend, you and your child will be expected to usher at a service approximately one month prior to your b’nei mitzvah date. If you are having a morning service, we ask that you usher at a morning service; if you have an afternoon/Havdalah service, we ask that you 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. A staff usher from Washington Hebrew Congregation will be present to explain your role and duties as an usher. To aid in this process, you will need to arrive 15 minutes before the start of the service on the day that your family is to usher.  We welcome you to usher after your own simcha, as your help is always needed! 


Your child’s Torah portion 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 members who are 13 or older by asking them to chant or read these blessings. 

Click here for a copy of the Torah blessings.


Yes! As a reform congregation, we embrace our interfaith families and we welcome all family members onto the bima. If this applies to your family, please speak to the clergy about any specific questions you may have. 


Absolutely! We conclude the service with kiddush and motzi, the blessings over wine (or grape juice) and challah. If your young adult has younger cousins or siblings who are not old enough to participate in the Torah service, they are welcome to come up to the bimah at the end of the service to help lead these blessings. 


The parents’ prayer is given just before you pass the Torah to your child. When writing this blessing, remember that your child has not yet chanted the Torah portion. The parent prayer is an opportunity for you to tell your child how proud you are of them and what you wish for their 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.


Having a b’nei 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 young adults. Due to various circumstances (i.e. families moving, health issues), some of our students may end up without a partner, however, most of our b’nei mitzvah celebrate their ceremony with a partner. 


As a reminder of the mitzvot God has commanded us, adult Jews traditionally wear a tallit (ritual prayer shawl) with the tzitzit (twisted and knotted strings) on the corners. As Reform Jews, the wearing of all ritual garments (i.e. tallit, kippah) is a matter of personal choice. We support any decision you and/or your child makes in this regard. If your child chooses to wear a tallit, it can be equally meaningful to wear a family tallit, or to buy a personal one. Our Women of Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Judaica Shop is a wonderful resource for all ritual items. 

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

Out of respect for our prayer spaces, we remind you to consider modesty in planning your attire. Conservative suits or dresses are appropriate. Please do not dress in black tie/formal wear for congregational services. For those who plan to wear a dress, shoulders and knees should be covered at all times in the sanctuary/chapel and plunging necklines are not appropriate. 


Friday evening Shabbat services begin promptly at 6:30 pm.  Candle lighting takes place in the lobby at 6:25Please make sure to call the Temple before making arrangements for a family dinner to confirm the time of the service, as one Shabbat a month, the time changes to 7:00. 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. 

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 the Rabbi and Cantor in the Rabbi’s study. Please request that your guests arrive a few minutes before the service begins so they may seat themselves before the start of the service. 

Saturday afternoon Shabbat/Havdalah services begin promptly at 5:00 pm and end around 6:30 pm. The b’nei mitzvah families should arrive no later than 4:30 pm when they will meet the Rabbi and Cantor in the Rabbi’s study. Please request that your guests arrive a few minutes before the service begins so they may seat themselves before the start of the service. 


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.  Additionally, Washington Hebrew Congregation has the ability to make a video of the service through our streaming camerasThese videos are edited and available for b’nei mitzvah families for a small feePlease contact the Cantor’s Office for more information. 

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 b’nei mitzvah.