Meets weekly on Sundays 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. & 1 to 2 p.m.
This year’s 7th Grade B’nei Mitzvah program will be taught by Rabbi Joshua Samuels, Cantorial Soloist Andrea Shupack, and a variety of guest expert teachers.
Becoming a B’nei Mitzvah is a significant Jewish life cycle event. This milestone marks a completion of one level of learning, with a commitment to now engage in deeper study, and gain a more mature understanding of Judaism, in order to assume the responsibilities of Jewish life. Literally, they are becoming a child of the commandments.
This year of study marks these students’ first steps into that deeper study, where they take more responsibility for their learning and their developing Jewish identity.
Students will bring together all the learning and experiences they have had up to this point, looking at what this milestone means to them, what it means to do mitzvot, and begin to envision a Jewish life they can be excited to embrace.
Together we will do activities from the 3 pillars of Judaism – Torah, Avodah (work & prayer), and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of kindness), as we embody how these can build the foundation for our own Jewish lives.
Each topic we explore will aim to move towards a more complex understanding of and deeper spiritual bond with their Judaism, and create experiences where they see Judaism as a serious arena to help them respond to the deepest challenges they will face.
We also recognize how significant the b’nei mitzvah experience is for the whole family. Multiple times through the year, we will offer family workshops during our Sunday school session for families to explore certain topics together.
These are some of the topics we will cover this year (which will vary somewhat depending on our guest teachers)
Connecting to Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim, the first four areas listed will be the main threads that weave through the whole year to link all the topics covered this year to the larger frame and goals of the b’nei mitzvah program:
- Pirket Avot- The Ethics of Our Fathers. Students will navigate the complicated journey of Jewish character development through examining a selection of essential rabbinic texts. Through this process, they will learn the Jewish traditional way of studying in chevruta (with a partner / friend) and will learn the important task of asking questions of the text. This is an important skill for any Jewish text study and will help with their d’var torah writing with Rabbi Samuels as well.
- Today’s Hot Topics: We will debate many current, controversial, or challenging issues, just like the rabbis did.
- Living Mitzvot: Students will discover the wide range of mitzvot and find out which ones resonate with them.
- Experiencing Jewish Prayer: In preparation for being prayer leaders as they become b’nei mitzvah, and hopefully to create lasting interest in experiencing prayer, we will enhance our understanding of prayer beyond the “how” and spend time on the “why” of Jewish prayer. Students will examine and stretch their beliefs around God and develop their own theology of prayer. They will experience prayer in more personal ways, examining the questions that emerge for themselves, as well as questions the liturgy asks of us. Students will learn the basics of the history and structure of the siddur, how it functions in poetry and metaphor, and begin to understand how the whole service works together to invoke different moods and stir us in the directions we need. Students will hear from others who have connected to prayer, learning from the stories of biblical characters who composed certain prayers, to more modern Jews who have had profound experiences in prayer and contributed to our connection to prayer.
Additional topics are not limited to, but will include:
- Torah Study and finding personal connection to these stories, laws, and lessons through text study and the arts (music, dance, drama, and drawing).
- Social Action and Social Justice culminating in student planned and led social action projects.
- Tzedek – Examining the root and how righteousness and charity are connected. We will also learn about and use the teachings of Maimonides on tzedakah to critically examine and think about how we give and what social action we choose to take on.
- Comparative Studies of the different Jewish denominations with a panel of experts from each denomination.
- Prayer Leading Skills – learning how to lead, why we pray, and what the prayers mean to the Jewish people, and to us individually.
- Other B’nei Mitzvah skills preparation: learning trope, how to participate in common rituals, public speaking, drash writing, etc.
- Concepts of God: We will learn about the hundreds of names for God, as we broaden our concepts and God language. We will select the names that most resonate with us, create art to represent it, and use these names during our time in tefilah (prayer).
Putting God on the Guest List: Helping families find more spirituality and meaning through the b’nei mitzvah process and ceremony.
Rabbi Samuels has completed a detailed guide to help guide families through the exciting process of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah. Get started by downloading Beth Israel’s new B’nei Mitzvah Handbook. Questions? Contact Rabbi Samuels through the Beth Israel office, (360) 733-8890.
The Congregation Beth Israel facility is available for congregants’ celebrations. More information is available on our Facilities Rental page.
Making it Count: Guidelines for Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah
This guide is designed to help you make the most of your Jewish journey. Focusing on the values that are most important in our tradition, you will explore together what commitments you can make to bring these principles to life. Judaism has a lot of special wisdom to offer, but only you can make it real.