In fourth grade, families attend a Shabbat morning service together, meet with the senior rabbi, and receive b’nai mitzvah and confirmation dates at this meeting, establishing a journey rather than an event. In the fifth grade, families receive the B’nai Mitzvah Brit, a document that specifies the values and responsibilities of all parties involved in the b’nai mitzvah process. During a b’nai mitzvah family meeting with clergy, families study the brit together and make additions that address unique family priorities. The bar/bat mitzvah student, the parents, and all members of the clergy sign the brit, signifying joint responsibility. At the sixth grade Masa Mitzvah Retreat, families and clergy come together to study, celebrate Shabbat, and discuss the values of the b’nai mitzvah experience.
The key to this innovation is not the programming but the process. It took a few years for Central Synagogue to see the fruits of its labors, but today, post-b’nai mitzvah retention has tripled. The congregation has created an environment in which parents can openly and honestly share with one another their hopes and their anxieties.
Grade levels: 4, 5, 6
Learners: Children (pre-B’nai Mitzvah), Parents
Everyone in the target audience is required to participate in the program.
Year Implemented: 2006
New York, NY
B’nai Mitzvah each year: 110