Beth Chai: The Greater Washington Jewish Humanist CongregationBeth Chai: The Greater Washington Jewish Humanist Congregation

Prerequisites for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

Each prospective Bar and Bat Mitzvah must complete a tutorial under the guidance of our rabbi, Dr. Arthur Blecher, and also must complete the full school year in the Mitzvah class, which meets on Sunday mornings as part of the Beth Chai Sunday School. Each student normally is expected to have attended the Beth Chai Sunday School for a minimum of three years prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Any questions regarding eligibility should be directed to

Required Tutorial

During the year leading up to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, the student engages in a private, individualized, six-month tutorial with Beth Chai’s rabbi, Dr. Blecher. Rabbi Blecher works closely with the student and parents, discussing the student’s interests and strengths and exploring the family’s needs and views. Each student selects a topic with guidance from the rabbi.

The student develops a study plan with the rabbi’s assistance, and the student, parents, rabbi, and congregation develop an agreement that defines responsibilities for completing all activities necessary for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah project and ceremony. The Rabbi meets with the student regularly. Parental participation is required. The project culminates in a presentation that forms the core of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

Study plans build upon the student’s abilities and interests. Most presentations are conducted entirely in English; training in Hebrew may be chosen by the student, but it is not required. Students learn to research their subject, to prepare an oral presentation, and to give a speech — all skills that will serve them well in the future.

Rabbi Blecher works effectively and creatively to help students find subjects that fit their personal interests and abilities and that inspire the level of commitment necessary to completing the project and delivering a successful and often inspiring presentation.

The Sunday School Mitzvah Year (7th Grade)

The Mitzvah year is a year of transition. Our children are becoming young adults, and the Mitzvah ceremony welcomes them as such into the Beth Chai community. Rabbi Blecher teaches about half of the Mitzvah year Sunday School sessions. Other sessions are taught by the Mitzvah class teacher or the education director. Occasionally, the Mitzvah class may participate in Adult Education sessions. The curriculum is sufficiently flexible that it can be adjusted each year with an eye to bringing out the strengths of the individuals in a particular class.

The Mitzvah year includes activities intended to deepen the students’ ties to each other and to the greater Beth Chai community. The families share potluck Shabbats and field trips. The students attend and participate in each other’s Mitzvah ceremonies.

Here are several documents for reference: the Mitzvah Class curriculum, the Tikkum Olam component of the curriculum, and the Mitzvah Class Guidelines.