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 Bar Mitzvah When Parents are Divorced
Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

These days, many Bat Mitzvah girls and Bar Mitzvah boys celebrate their special day with only one of their  parents at their side.  This situation is unfortunate and stressful, as even though most parents attempt to conduct themselves in a manner that would be best for their child, there are bound most often, to be unhappy considerations.

For example.  Does the mother invite the ex, her child's father to the ceremony in the synagogue? Does the father get an Aliya, an honor that under normal circumstances reserved for the father of the Bar mitzvah? 

Every case should of course be decided upon based on the particular circumstances, but parents are urged to try as hard as they can to put their own feelings aside and do what would be most comfortable and acceptable to their child.

If at all possible and palatable to all involved, it would be best to have both parents there for the child.  Regardless of who has physical custody of the bar mitzvah boy or who plays a larger role in the child’s life, and irrelevant of who pays for the even,  one must remember that a parental bond cannot be severed. It’s a fact of biology.  Having both parents at the service may be important to the bar mitzvah boy.

Giving an aliya to a father is a traditional honored custom at bnei mitzvah ceremonies. So it may be worth tolerating an ex’s presence and giving him an aliyah. But it’s not a must. If the divorce is still fresh, the wounds are still deep, and the hurt is still burning, or when the presence of both parents may lead to an altercation and an embarrassment to the child, or if one or both parents are remarried, and the new spouses are not liked by the child and will cause them grief or shame and detract from the enjoyment of their special day, find other solutions.

Some kids celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs twice. (They may read the Torah at one, and only receive an aliya at the other, or just repeat their speech or performance.)   Some may go to Friday night services with one parent, and be the guest of honor at the Oneg Shabbat after-service social. Then they’ll spend the Saturday service and read the Torah with the other parent. Some will have the ritual service with one parent and a party celebration with the other.  Other options include having the service and party with one parent and taking a bar mitzvah trip with the other.

There are many ways to keep the peace. Involve your child in the decision, and be sure to make him or her as comfortable as possible. No guilt trips!  Treat your twelve year old girls and thirteen year old children as adults and with respect.  There are many ways to keep the peace and honor this great occasion.  Choose one.  With care.  Mazal Tov.

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Why are the Bat and Bar Mitzvah Celebrated at Ages Twelve and Thirteen
• Post Bar Mitzvah Privileges (When Boy Reaches 13 Years of Age)
• Evolution of the Bar Mitzvah over the years
Evolution of the Bat Mitzvah over the years
• Is a formal celebration of a Bar MItzvah or Bat MItzvah required by Jewish law?
Settings for the Celebration of a Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah
Setting a Date for the Celebration of a Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

• Bar Mitzvah Services and Ceremonial Rituals at the Synagogue
• Getting Ready for the Bar Mitzvah - The Tallit: Prayer Shawl
• Getting Ready for the Bar Mitzvah - The Tefillin, Phylacteries
• Getting Ready for the Bar Mitzvah - The "Hat"
Getting Ready for the Bar Mitzvah - Reading Hebrew & Torah Reading
Preparation for the Bar Mitzvah Celebrations: Ideas and Alternatives
• Beyond Party Plans: Meaningful Projects for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah
• The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Service: Instructional Booklets and Schedules
• The Bar Mitzvah Blessing Recited by the Boy's Father: Baruch Sh'Ptarani
• Memorial Prayers during the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Celebrations
• Videography and Photography during Bar Mitzvah Services at the Synagogue
• Bar Mitzvah boy and Bat Mitzvah Girl of Divorced Parents.  What to do?
• "Honors" during Torah Reading at Synagogue Bar Mitzvah Services
• Synagogue Etiquette: What to Wear, How to Conduct Oneself

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• Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Speeches
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