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 Home > Bar Mitzvah Guide > Conservative > Personalized Instruction Booklets    Search The Jewish Directory

Personalizing the Bar Mitzvah Service
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Aside from the usual prayers, songs and Torah reading at a Shabbat service, there are ways to make the bat mitzvah service special.

Personalizing the Service
Adding prayers and readings can be a deeply meaningful way to shape the service. Get a sense of how much individualization is permitted at your synagogue by attending other bnei mitzvah services. Talk with your rabbi to find out the guidelines and limitations. Then go for it. Poetry readings – keep it short and practice first. Selections from other written works – same advice applies. Snippets from songs. These can act as a running commentary on the regular prayers. Remember the rest of the congregation and keep the references understandable and meaningful to those who may not know you or your family very well.

Many synagogues corral all personalized input into the parents’ presentation of the tallit. It’s not because rabbis besmirch sentiment; it’s just that services are for glorifying God, not each other. If you can’t cram it all into this brief moment, save your words of wisdom for the party. Better yet: tell the bat mitzvah what you’ve been thinking at a special dinner with just mom, dad and her.

Booklets
There is a way to add your personal take on the service without doing actual readings from the bima. With your computer and a little creativity, you can publish a booklet as a guide to the service, a forum for personal statements and a memento of the day.

What to Include:
• Depending on your crowd, there may be a need to give more or less of an introduction to the whole synagogue experience. Explain the phases of the service. Write a tour of the synagogue, such as the ner tamid, eternal light, the ark.
• Some pages can be dedicated to a brief history of the bat/bar mitzvah celebration.
• Write a biography of the bar mitzvah boy. Use a timeline format if essays are not your style.
• Memories written grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and friends
• Color photocopies of baby pictures set alongside more contemporary shots
• Welcome and thank everyone for attending the service (especially the out of towners) with a handwritten letter.
• Add a map with directions to the place where the party will be held.
• Ease the challenge of finding the right page for the Torah reading by copying the portion into the booklet. Be careful. It’s not a mitzvah to violate copyright laws, and once God’s name is on paper the booklets should be treated with special respect.
• Drawings or poems by the bar mitzvah: his best work, his interpretation of what Judaism means…
• Prayers written by the bat mitzvah: for peace, for understanding, for patience.

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