Our B’nai Mitzvah program here at Beth Or is a minimum of 2 years, meeting twice a week. And even though it is desirable that the candidate has had some prior exposure to Hebrew, it is not necessary. The first year class starts with an immersion of the student in the Hebrew language – learning the alphabet, vowels, basic reading and simple prayers. In separate classes we cover topics of Jewish content teaching culture and customs, holidays, history, Bible and textual sources and an introduction to Jewish law and ethics. During the second year, we continue our survey of Jewish content and teach students more advanced Hebrew prayers and Torah chanting. The second year we also ask the student to engage in a special community service project as an expression of Jewish values learned.
About 6 months before the ceremony, we begin to focus on each child’s Torah portion in separate tutoring sessions, usually weekly, at a time and place convenient to the student and his/her Torah tutor. It is there where we tailor our efforts toward meeting each child’s learning ability and challenges, whether they be gifted, shy or ADHD, to make this process a win for all. Finally, we finish with rehearsals with parents before the simchah.
Throughout this process, we encourage parental and caregiver’s participation, and have sessions where you will meet and discuss issues and learn with our Rabbi, Mark Kram. Our program is geared to meeting each family’s individual Jewish journey. We have a beautifully written ceremony, one that expresses themes of the student’s growing autonomy; of finding one’s own place Jewishly, interwoven with the Jewish theme of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) with right action, care for the earth and social justice. And we wholeheartedly encourage each family’s participation in building your own meaningful ceremony from the framework we have provided. Sometimes families intersperse the ceremony with other readings and songs, in their native language that highlight the rich diversity of our community.