The Bnai Mitzvah ceremony has traditionally marked the passage of Jewish children from youth to adulthood, by holding them responsible for full adult participation in Jewish life, especially in the life of their Jewish community. At Kahal Chaverim, we acknowledge the importance of this ritual by preparing children for full participation in our community life in the most adult-like fashion they are capable of at the age of celebration (at least 13 years old and with a minimum of two full years in the Kahal Chaverim Sunday School or another recognized secular humanistic program).
A Kahal Chaverim Bnai Mitzvah has several components. During the school year, several months prior to the actual celebration, all students will undertake two projects which are intended to demonstrate their highest level achievement. Each student will create a deep learning project on a subject of their choosing which reflects the student’s Jewish identity to be presented at their celebration. This project can be in the form of a written paper, musical performance, website design, multi-media presentation, or other endeavor that allows the student to demonstrate his or her greatest abilities. The project will be approved by the Ceremonial Leader or Bnai Mitzvah teacher. In addition, each student will participate in at least 12 hours of social action on a project of their choosing, and report on their experiences as part of the celebration. To prepare students for this commitment, all students will be expected to support of the congregation’s high holiday food drive and other social action activities throughout the year.
For the Bnai Mitzvah service itself, each student, together with their family and our Ceremonial Leader, creates a service to be read publicly on the day of celebration. This service can be composed using a variety of prior services, or can be as innovative as the student and family desire. The student is expected to lead significant portions of the service, present at least a summary description of their deep learning and social action projects, and include other family members in appropriate roles. To prepare for leading this service, all students are expected to participate in holiday services throughout the year, under the guidance of the Ceremonial Leader. Additionally, during the school year, all students will participate in the design and celebration of a class Shabbat or Havdalah service.
The Kahal Chaverim 7th grade curriculum for Sunday School, in addition to the activities and tasks described above as part of the Bnai Mitzvah celebration, presents the challenges of continuity and change, and hope and despair that have informed Jewish experience (personal, cultural and national) for the past century. These challenges will be confronted through an exploration of the three critical experiences of Jewish life during this era: immigration and urbanization, The Holocaust, and Zionism and the emergence State of Israel. Using literature, film, and other resources, students will explore these experiences and reflect on the continuing challenge to themselves that these present; hopefully discovering for themselves the tensions created by the continuity/change and hope/despair dichotomies.