B’nei Mitzvah Guide

Dear Families,
Mazal tov on reaching this step of the b’nei mitzvah process! Our goals for b’nei mitzvah at Temple Israel are simple: we want each student to complete their b’nei mitzvah feeling, “proud to be you, and proud to be a Jew.” We also love to build enduring relationships with your child so that they feel connected to our congregation and remain engaged in Jewish life through their teenage years and beyond.
Your main point of contact for scheduling appointments, rehearsals and general questions is our B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator Erin Simon: esimon@tiwestport.org, or 203-227-1293 x302. 
You may reach your clergy at the emails below: 
Rabbi Michael S. Friedman: mfriedman@tiwestport.org
Cantor Julia Cadrain: jcadrain@tiwestport.org
Rabbi Elana Nemitoff-Bresler: enemitoffbresler@tiwestport.org
Rabbi Zachary Plesent: zplesent@tiwestport.org
Cantor Becky Mann: bmann@tiwestport.org
We are here for you every step of the way, and look forward to sharing this journey with you.
Mazel Tov,

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Our B’nei Mitzvah Values


We’re with you every step of the way. We will support you throughout this process to ensure your experience is meaningful, positive, and empowering.



We believe in welcoming all people across orientation, gender identity, background and ability. We accommodate various learning needs, and welcome interfaith families, and all types of family constellations to participate fully in the process. 



We treasure tradition and embrace innovation. Together, we will discover what meaning the ancient words of Torah have for us today in our own lives. 



B’nei mitzvah is a milestone highlight, though it is but one highlight of many within your larger Jewish journey.

B’nei Mitzvah Timeline

5th Grade

Receive date assignment letter
Thanksgiving Weekend
Torah Family Program
Tefilah (Prayer) family program


6th Grade

Hopes, Fears, Memories Family program
Mitzvah Family program


7th Grade

B’nei Mitzvah Orientation
8-10 months before
Weekly tutoring begins
5-6 months before
Haftarah Workshop
3-6 months before
Clergy meetings begin
3 months before
Sanctuary rehearsals
3 weeks before
Shabbat honors
Friday night before

B’nei Mitzvah Tutoring

Tutoring Sessions

We offer 20 one-on-one sessions with a tutor. We ask that parents attend the first session, so parents can be engaged with the process and have a chance to ask questions. If you believe that more than 20 sessions will be needed, please reach out to our B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator, Erin Simon, at esimon@tiwestport.org, to let her know.


We expect learners to practice 15 minutes a day.  Tutoring is intended as a supplement to independent learning.


If you need to reschedule a tutoring session, please reach out to your tutor directly at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled lesson. Late cancellations or no shows count towards your 20 lessons.

Summer Tutoring

We set up the tutoring schedule assuming no tutoring or new learning will happen during the summer months. If you would like to opt in to summer tutoring, we ask that you communicate directly with your tutor about scheduling and rate.

Each student is expected to… 

  • Continue to regularly attend Kesher. 
  • Attend Shabbat services as often as possible (we love to see you there!).
  • Practice daily for 15-20 minutes. Students may access all materials via their google drive folder, which we will share with you when tutoring begins.
  • Chant approximately 12 verses of Torah and approximately 5 verses of Haftarah. Generally, each student should master about one verse (one sentence) of Torah or Haftarah per week. 
  • Craft and present a D’var Torah, sharing their own insights on the weekly Torah portion.   
  • Give back to your community by completing a Tikkun Olam Project. You may access a list of Tikkun Olam Project ideas and organizations here. We ask that learners complete this form to let us know about their choice, before their first tutoring session.

How can I make bar/bat mitzvah a meaningful experience?

  • Determine why this Jewish milestone is so significant to you. In other words, Why are you doing this? Then discuss your answers with your child. Encourage your child to come up with their own answers as well.
  • Take a look at your child’s Torah portion (in English). Discuss it as a family. What themes do you see in the text? How might the portion relate to your family’s values? Are there parts of the portion that you strongly agree with? Parts that trouble you? There really are no wrong answers. Your rabbis will guide your child through the process of writing a D’var Torah, but conversation about the content of the portion can only deepen your family’s experience. 
  • Attend Shabbat services at Temple Israel, or via our livestream. Our services are filled with joyous music and compelling messages about our world. Most importantly, Shabbat is a time to be together as a family without the distraction of screens or the burden of to-do lists. We think you’ll love it. It’s also the best way for your child (and you!) to become familiar with the service your child will be leading. 

Family Honors

  • Family and friends may be honored with an aliyah — the blessing before and after reading the Torah. Generally you will have three aliyot, each which can be parceled out to a small group (ie, grandparents and aunts and uncles). The bar/bat mitzvah has the honor of the fourth aliyah.
  • An aliyah form is provided in your google folder. Please return your completed aliyah form at least two weeks before your child’s bar/bat mitzvah.  
  • Grandparents and parents are invited to participate in the passing of the Torah scroll from generation to generation.
  • Younger siblings may have the honor of reading an English prayer for peace. 
  • Older siblings may have the honor of an aliyah, or of lifting the Torah scroll.
You can find recordings and text for all blessings and prayers, including the Torah blessings recited by those honored with an aliyah here: https://tiwestport.org/bneimitzvahmaterials

Frequently Asked Questions about Honors


All services will be professionally filmed, and the recording will be available to you afterwards. 



You may arrange a time to use our sanctuary for photographs. To reserve the sanctuary for photographs, please contact our Director of Programming and Member Engagement, Stephanie Schwartz at sschwartz@tiwestport.org. Photography is permitted during the service provided the camera is stationary in the rear of the sanctuary. 



If you would like to hold your celebration on-site, please contact our Director of Programming and Member Engagement, Stephanie Schwartz at sschwartz@tiwestport.org


Live Streaming

We livestream our b’nei mitzvah services here.

Defining Key Terms

B’nei Mitzvah: “Child of the commandments.” A rite of passage in which a child takes their place as a fully participating adult member of the Jewish community.
Bar Mitzvah: for a male-identifying child
Bat Mitzvah: for a female-identifying child
B’not Mitzvah: for two female-identifying children
B’nei Mitzvah: for multiple children or a single non-binary child
Parshah (PAR-sha or pa-ra-SHA): “Portion.” Each week in the Jewish community, we read a different portion of the Torah. Generally each child who becomes b’nei mitzvah learns an assigned section from within the weekly Torah portion.
Haftarah (haf-ta-RAH): A reading from the book of Prophets. As part of our b’nei mitzvah process, we hold group “haftarah workshops” where each child learns about haftarah and selects the haftarah portion most meaningful to them.

D’var Torah: “A word of Torah.”  The speech each child gives at their service, explaining and bringing personal insight to their Torah portion. We provide five D’var Torah meetings for each child with their officiating rabbi, where the rabbi offers guidance and support in writing this speech. 
Aliyah (ah-lee-YAH): “Coming up.” Loved ones may be honored with an aliyah, which means coming up to the bima to recite the blessings before and after reading Torah. We ask each family to fill out an Aliyah form with the names (in both English and Hebrew) of their honorees.
Bima (BEE-mah): “Stage.” The raised section in the front of our sanctuary where much of the service takes place.
Tallit (tah-LEET): A ritual prayer shawl that the child wears during the service.
Tikkun Olam Project: (tee-KOON oh-LAHM) “Repairing the world.” Each student completes a tikkun olam service project as a part of their b’nei mitzvah process.