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B'NEI MITZVAH AT WILSHIRE BOULEVARD TEMPLE

Welcome to your home base for all forms and information pertaining to your Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We can't wait to share this simcha with you!

Questions? Please e-mail Lisa Alpern at lalpern@wbtla.org.

 

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Letter from Your Clergy

Welcome to the B’nei Mitzvah journey! One way to describe Judaism is as a conversation throughout the generations. When your child becomes Bar or Bat Mitzvah he or she joins that boisterous, alive, and meaningful conversation in a more profound way. It is a spiritual, intellectual, ethical and emotional conversation about who they are as individuals, as a part of the Jewish people, and as part of humanity. Torah is our vehicle into this conversation, as it challenges us to explore, question and discover every part of ourselves and our world. We are thrilled to welcome you and your family into this conversation.

As your child prepares for his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah, he or she will study his or her Torah portion and learn the rituals, music, and prayers in order to feel fully prepared. Our goal is that during this process your family will feel supported, and that your child will feel challenged to learn and grow. It is also our goal that this process will connect your family more deeply with the clergy, staff, and community of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. We want you to know that we are here for you during these months and in the many years ahead. Thirteen years old is a beautiful age on the cusp of adolescence, a time of tremendous growth and transition. Together, we will instill your child with the wisdom and values of Judaism as he or she undoubtedly makes you and himself or herself proud on the bimah and long after.

L'shalom,

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, Rabbi Elissa Ben-Naim, Rabbi David Eshel, Rabbi M. Beaumont Shapiro, Rabbi Susan Goldberg, Rabbi Susan Nanus, Cantor Don Gurney and Cantor Lisa Peicott

Who's Who in the B'nei Mitzvah Journey

There is a famous African proverb that teaches it takes a village to raise a child. At Wilshire Boulevard Temple, we understand it takes a congregation to make a Bar or Bat Mitzvah journey possible. Our shared goal is to celebrate a sacred moment in the life of a young adult and his or her family.

Below is a who’s who on your B’nai Mitzvah journey. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns!

The Clergy Team:

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, Pritzker Chair of Senior Rabbinics

Rabbi David Eshel

Rabbi M. Beaumont Shapiro

Rabbi Susan Goldberg

Cantor Don Gurney

Cantor Lisa Peicott

Each student and his or her family will be assigned a Rabbi who will work closely with the family and guide them through the Bar or Bat Mitzvah process. He or she will help each student explore the meaning of their Torah portion and work with them on their d’var Torah. Assignments are made approximately one year prior to the date of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah and students are required to attend a minimum of three meetings with their assigned Rabbi.

All families will also work closely with the Cantor’s Office, and meet individually with Cantor Don Gurney or Cantor Lisa Peicott.

Meetings with Rabbi Leder are scheduled by Samantha Rosen, (213) 835-2121 or srosen@wbtla.org.

Meetings with Rabbi Goldberg are scheduled by Ashley Sullivan, (213) 835-2146 or asullivan@wbtla.org.

Meetings with Rabbi Eshel and Rabbi Shapiro are scheduled by Denise Magilnick, (424) 208-8930 or dmagilnick@wbtla.org.

Meetings with Cantor Gurney and Cantor Peicott are scheduled by Jesica Ryzenberg, (213) 835-2124 or jryzenberg@wbtla.org.

The Education Team:

Cathy Gordon, Head of Religious School

Lisa Alpern, Associate Director, Religious School

Rachel Waltuch, Associate Director, Religious School

Brandon Cohen, Head of Elementary School

Nadine Zysman, Principal at Brawerman West

Gillian Feldman, Principal at Brawerman East

Rabbi Elissa Ben-Naim, Head of Judaic and Hebrew Studies, Brawerman Elementary School

Lisa Alpern, Associate Director of the Religious School, is here to support you in every aspect of the process. She can be reached at 424-208-8971 or lalpern@wbtla.org.

Our education team at both the Religious School and Brawerman Elementary School are here to support and help you during this exciting and significant journey.
 
For questions about the Religious School, call (424) 208-8906 or email rsinfo@wbtla.org.
 
For questions about Brawerman Elementary School, call (424) 208-8934 or email info@brawerman.org.

 

B’nei Mitzvah Instructors

Instructors work one-on-one with students to prepare them for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah service (24 sessions total). Instructors are assigned through the Cantor’s office approximately one year prior to the service, and sessions begin approximately seven months prior to the ceremony. All sessions are included in the B’nei MItzvah fee.

Logistics

Logistics for kiddush lunches and more are handled by Cheryl Mandel Garland, Planning and Events Manager. She can be reached at (213) 835-2167 or cgarland@wbtla.org.

Preparation

Preparation with Your Rabbi and Cantor

The clergy at Wilshire Boulevard Temple are committed to spending significant time with each and every Bar and Bat Mitzvah student. There are three required appointments with the Rabbi who will be with you on your Bar or Bat Mitzvah date.

  1. Theology meeting (in small group)
  2. D’var Torah meeting #1 (in small group)
  3. D’var Torah meeting #2 (in small group)

In addition to the above meetings, questions, discussion and additional meetings are encouraged with your Rabbi. Please call Samantha at 213-835-2121 for Rabbi Leder or Rabbi Goldberg, and Denise at 424-208-8930 for Rabbi Eshel and Rabbi Beau Shapiro.

All Bar and Bat Mitzvah students will also meet individually with Cantor Gurney or Cantor Peicott. The Cantor will record your child’s Torah and Haftarah portions in an appropriate pitch for your child, and help with parent blessings and choosing honors. 

Note: Cantor Gurney is at the Irmas Campus on most Friday evenings and at the Erika J. Glazer Family Campus on most Saturday mornings. Cantor Lisa Peicott at the Erika J. Glazer Family Campus on Friday evenings and at the Irmas Campus on most Saturday mornings.

Preparation with Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutor

All Bar and Bat Mitzvah candidates are required to attend 24 30-minute individual sessions with their assigned tutor. Any necessary sessions beyond the alloted 24 will be at the expense of the b'nei mitzvah family. These sessions are required and critical to helping your child prepare for his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah. If the student can not attend a scheduled session, please notify your tutor at least 6 hours prior to the scheduled session and be prepared to schedule a make-up session. You will be charged for cancellations within the 6 hour cancellation window. One parent must be present during the first session, but we ask that parents don't participate beyond the first session as this disrupts the tutor-student rapport. B’nei Mitzvah instruction will begin approximately seven months prior to the service date.

B’nei Mitzvah instruction typically takes place at the Irmas or Glazer campus. If you would rather have your instructor come to your home for your 24 sessions there will be an additional fee of $1,500.00. Please note that 100% of this additional fee goes directly to your at-home tutor.

Rehearsal Information

Rehearsals take place during the final three weeks before your Bar or Bat Mitzvah date under the guidance of Cantor Gurney or Cantor Peicott at the campus where your Bar or Bat Mitzvah will take place. Parents are expected to be present for these three rehearsals. Students should bring the following with them to rehearsals:

  • Hard copy of your Torah and Haftarah portions
  • Hard copy of all speeches
  • Aliyot chart

While you do not need to dress up for these rehearsals, we do encourage students to wear the shoes they will wear during the Bar or Bat Mitzvah so they can practice walking around with the Torah.

On the morning of your service, please meet your Rabbi and Cantor at 9:30 AM for a special tallit ceremony. Your family honorees are encouraged to attend this meeting. This beautiful ritual takes place in the Lerner Conference Room at the Glazer campus and in the Chapel Auditorium at the Irmas campus. The service begins promptly at 10:00 AM, and concludes around 12:00 PM.

If you have any additional questions about your preparation schedule, please don’t hesitate to contact Lisa Alpern at lalpern@wbtla.org or 424-208-8971.

Timeline

Please note: The dates listed below are prior to the date of the child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Three years:

  • Families receive the Bar or Bat Mitzvah date and location
  • Families are asked to pay $800 toward the $2,400 B’nai Mitzvah fee (fee includes b’nei mitzvah materials, b’nei mitzvah instruction, and flowers for the bimah)
  • Students participate in Wilshire Boulevard Temple religious school or elementary school

Three years-two years:

  • Families are invited to attend various family learning opportunities
  • Students participate in Wilshire Boulevard Temple religious school or elementary school

12 months - 9 months:

  • Families attend the B’nei Mitzvah Orientation Dinner. At the dinner, families are assigned a Rabbi who will work with your family for the remainder of the process, and officiate at the Bar or Bat service. Your family will meet with the Rabbi at least three times over the course of several months to discuss theology and the service, and to begin the process of writing the D’var Torah (Torah speech)
  • The student and family attend a private meeting with Cantor Gurney or Cantor Ettinger
  • Families are invited to attend various family learning opportunities
  • Students participate in Wilshire Boulevard Temple religious school or elementary school

Seven months:

  • The student meets with their assigned b’nei mitzvah instructor to begin learning his or her materials. Weekly meetings with the instructors commence (24 total)

One month:

  • The student and family has three dress rehearsals with Cantory Gurney or Cantor Ettinger

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

A Bar Mitzvah, "son of the commandment," or Bat Mitzvah, "daughter of the commandment," is a Jewish rite of passage.The Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony formally and publicly acknowledges that a young person has reached the age when he or she is no longer a minor according to Jewish law and is thereby obligated to take on new religious privileges and the responsibilities of an adult. Among other things, these include moral responsibility for one’s own actions and eligibility to read from the Torah.

When can my child become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

At Wilshire Boulevard Temple both girls and boys celebrate becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah at age thirteen. In some circumstances, services may be scheduled up to three months prior to the 13th birthday. If your child is having his or her service in Israel, it may be scheduled up to 6 months prior to the 13th birthday.

What is my role as a parent, and how may my family participate in this special ceremony?

During the Friday night service before the Saturday service, the mother of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is invited to recite the blessing over the candles, and light the Shabbat candles. Following the service, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah family recites the Kiddush, the blessing over the wine, and Motzi, the blessing over the challah, together with the cantor and rabbi. 

Parents are also invited to sit on the bimah during Saturday morning services. Stepparents are only invited to sit on the bimah if all parties agree to this in writing. There are many honors for close family and friends throughout the Shabbat morning service. At the beginning of the Torah service, the Torah is taken out of the Ark for a special passing of the Torah ceremony. The Torah is symbolically passed from parent to child, from generation to generation. Family members can also be honored with an aliyah (the blessing before and after the reading of the Torah), by opening the ark for the Amidah, dressing the Torah (G’lilah), or opening the ark before the Aleinu.

Parents are also invited to offer a brief blessing to their child after the Bar or Bat Mitzvah's words of gratitude. Speaking to your child after he or she reads from the Torah is a rare and precious moment in a parent’s life. When preparing your blessing, please make certain the blessing is about your child’s character, your hopes and dreams for your child and about the value of Torah, tradition, family and Jewish commitment. The most successful blessings do not exceed one page per parent.

Who can have an aliyah

An aliyah is an opportunity for any Jewish friend or family member of B'nei Mitzvah age (13 years or older) to be called to the Torah and chant the blessings before and after the Torah reading.

What if I, or a member of my family is not Jewish? May we still participate in the Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony?

We recognize the uniqueness of each family's situation. We do not want anyone to compromise his or her beliefs or identity, nor do we wish anyone to take on a role or speak words that are not consistent with his or her religious identity. We also understand that this is a joyous occasion for the whole family, and that all family members have made a commitment to participation in Jewish life.

While non-Jewish family members are invited to stand with the Bar or Bat Mitzvah during an aliyah, we do not call them to the Torah and invite them to chant the aliyah. The blessings before and after reading from the Torah refer to the obligations Jews owe to God, and thus it is not considered fitting (as it is not their obligation) for them to lead the congregation in these blessings. We do invite all family members, regardless of religion, to participate in all other honors including offering a parent blessing, opening the Ark before the Amidah and Aleinu, and dressing the Torah (G’lilah). Please use these principles in assigning honors to your family. If you have any questions about your family's participation in services, please feel free to consult with the Cantor, one of the Rabbis, or the Director of B’nei Mitzvah Engagement.

Can I request a specific rabbi or cantor for my child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah service?

The rabbi and cantor for your celebration will be assigned approximately 10 months in advance. Clergy are assigned on a rotational basis and understandably not all clergy are available on all weekends. If you have a relationship with one of our clergy, please let us know. While we cannot promise to honor specific requests, this information is nevertheless helpful to us.

Can I create a personalized program for the service?

This is not our tradition at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. If you have more questions, please contact the Cantor's Office at cantorsoffice@wbtla.org.

Why do some families throw candy during the service?

The Shabbat before a couple gets married, there is a custom to throw candy at them when they are called to the Torah. This is to wish them a sweet new life as a married couple. In the last 50 years or so, some have extended this custom to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah child. While it's meaningful to connect the act of taking on greater responsibility within the Jewish community with the sweetness of our tradition, the reality is a messy, loud, and chaotic experience in the middle of a service. This can be very disruptive for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child so we have a "no candy" policy during our services. Save the sweetness for after the service!

Do I need to wear a kippah or tallit during the service?

As a Reform congregation, both women and men have the option of wearing kippot and tallitot during the service, though we encourage it at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. As wearing a tallit is a special privilege and responsibility of becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, each child participates in a special tallit ceremony with Wilshire Boulevard Temple clergy immediately prior to the Shabbat morning service. While we do have a small number of tallitot and kippot available for use during the service, parents often choose to bring a tallit that has family meaning or use one that was made during Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s religious school or at Brawerman Elementary School. Finally, you can also purchase a new one as a special gift for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child.

What if my child has special learning needs?

At Wilshire Boulevard Temple we believe that every person deserves the opportunity to celebrate becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We know that not all students learn the same way, they do not have the same natural talents or abilities, and they come from very different life experiences. We are committed to working with every student, and to making this event a truly positive and enriching experience for every family. We look forward to working towards this goal for your child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

What is the difference between a double and a single Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

B'nei mitzvah students do four major things on the day of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah: (1) chant Torah, (2) chant Haftarah, (3) lead parts of the service, and (4) teach Torah (deliver a d'var Torah or speech). If it is a double Bar or Bat Mitzvah, students lead parts of the service together. The other elements (chanting from Torah, Haftarah and delivering a d'var Torah) are done individually.

What is a Tikkun Olam Project?

All students having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Wilshire Boulevard Temple are required to complete a Tikkun Olam Project. Details about the Tikkun Olam project are shared with the larger Temple community in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple bulletin. We ask all students to answer the following questions for the bulletin:

  • What is the name of your organization/project?
  • Tell us about your Tikkun Olam project?
  • Why was your Tikkun Olam project meaningful to you?
  • What do you commit to doing after you become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to help make the world a better place?

There are three ways for B'nei Mitzvah students to fulfill this requirement:

  • Participation in the religious school's 7th and 8th grade program, WBTYhelps
  • Volunteering at least 10 hours at a non-profit organization
  • A project of their own creation, based on the student interest and passions

More questions? Please feel free to contact your officiating rabbi, or Lisa Alpern, Associate Director of the Religious School. 

What if my child is having his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel, but not on the Wilshire Boulevard Temple B’nei Mitzvah Israel trip? How can Wilshire Boulevard Temple be involved?

We are there for you! If you are Temple members in good standing and your child is enrolled in one of our schools, our tutors and clergy will help prepare your child. Please note that while our clergy cannot officiate the service in Israel, we do recommend several wonderful rabbis in Israel with whom we work closely. Additionally, we invite your family to join us for a Friday night service in Los Angeles, to share in candlelighting and Kiddush, and so we can present your child with a special gift on behalf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple community. Please note that the service in Israel must be held no more than six months prior to the child's 13th birthday.

What if my child is having his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah out of the country, but not in Israel? How can Wilshire Boulevard Temple be involved?

Please contact our Lisa Alpern, Director of B'nei Mitzvah Engagement, at lalpern@wbtla.org, to discuss details and so we can figure out how to best support you.

What if my child is having his or her Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Los Angeles, but not at Wilshire Boulevard Temple?

We would still love to tutor your child! If you are Temple members in good standing and your child is enrolled in one of our schools, our tutors can help prepare your child. Unfortunately clergy meetings and d’var Torah preparation are not included. Please note that families participating in this option must pay the $2,400 B'nei Mitzvah fee, and the service must be held no more than three months prior to the child's 13th birthday.

What if I wish to use my own instructor to help my child prepare for the service, instead of one of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple instructors?

Please contact the Cantor's office at cantorsoffice@wbtla.org.

What is appropriate attire for the service?

At Wilshire Boulevard Temple we are blessed with a chapel and a national landmark sanctuary of extraordinary beauty. Dress should be modest and conservative (i.e. jackets and ties for men, dresses that cover the shoulders for women). Please consider your necklines and hemlines when dressing for Temple and remind your children that although strapless and low-cut dresses are in fashion, they are not appropriate for religious services. When choosing shoes for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah child, be mindful that he or she should be wearing shoes that can be worn while standing for long periods of time. We strongly encourage lower or no heels to mitigate any discomfort during services.

Do I need to provide flowers for the bimah?

No, this was included in the B’nei Mitzvah fee you paid when you reserved your date.

Do we have to provide a Kiddush lunch for the congregation?

No, you are not required to host a Kiddush lunch (meal following the service), though many families choose to do so. We have several venues at both campuses for Kiddush lunch and reservations are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

We encourage families that share the bimah to discuss their plans with each other before finalizing any requests. For additional questions please contact Cheryl Garland, Events and Program Manager at cgarland@wbtla.org.

More questions? Contact Lisa Alpern, Director of B’nei Mitzvah Programs, at 424-208-8971 or lalpern@wbtla.org.