What does it mean to be B’nai Mitzvah?

by Dana Rosenbloom, M.S. Ed.

We ask children approaching this milestone to consider their pasts: past actions, past decisions, past choices. We ask that they use these experiences to inform the lives they will lead going forward, as they become b’nai mitzvah and are responsible for their actions. So too does Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism, as we enter our 13th year. We are truly coming of age and solidifying our identity.

Launched by the thought provoking text from Rabbi Meir, “Do not look at the jug, but what is in it” the board of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) came together in Boulder, Colorado for its 2012 Kallah.

Within minutes this group of early childhood professionals were considering the past and planning for the vibrant future of Reform Judaism. Mark Horowitz, the Vice President of Early Childhood and Family Engagement of the Jewish Community Center Association launched our kallah with a trip to the Reggio Emilia inspired Boulder Journey School, a world renown early childhood program from the secular world. URJ Senior Congregational Advisor Dale Glasser and Director of Lifelong Learning Rabbi Jan Katzew worked in partnership to help us understand how to best connect our history with the goals of the organization in meeting the needs of our constituents. During the intensive board training, board members realized that in order to grow, the current structure of the board needs to be examined closely, along with thinking about a possible long-term strategic plan which will include mentoring future leaders of our organization. As many in the greater Reform movement have noticed, technology is paving the road to the future and we feel confident that ECE-RJ will help to lead the way! With a few final adjustments, our forthcoming website will prove to be a resource for congregations, directors, teachers and parents who are guiding young children, making us the cutting edge of early childhood education in a Jewish setting.

The Kallah gave us the opportunity to come together to celebrate what is so unique and wonderful about Early Childhood and the Reform Movement. Rabbi Jan Katzew lifted us to new heights of learning and understanding during our Torah study. Scholar-In-Residence Cantor Ellen Dreskin, created a safe and supportive environment enabling us to explore some of our deepest thoughts and feelings regarding G-d, Torah, our work, and our personal identities.

We asked members of our diverse board to share their impressions of the Kallah. Here are what two of them had to say:

Edye Summerfield, ECE-RJ VP of Membership, Temple Early Learning Center (at The Temple) in Atlanta, GA said, “I am inspired by the observations, conversations, text studies, and visioning that have occurred over the past two days. With only part of the Kallah behind me, I know I will return to Atlanta motivated to implement real change and celebrate all that the TELC and Temple offer to early engagement.”

Tammy Vener, ECE-RJ President, Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA said, “It is clear that we come together one a year and are thirsty to learn, share, advocate and be inspired Jewishly. We cling to the past and are always ready to move in to future.”


Dana Rosenbloom, M.S. Ed. teaches 2s/3s at Temple Shaaray Tefila Nursery School, New York, NY. She’s also a parent educator and special educator, providing resources and services through www.DanasKids.com.

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One Response to “What does it mean to be B’nai Mitzvah?”

  1. avatar

    When I became an adult B’nai Mitzvah, I was reaffirming my commitment to Judaism and taking on full responsability for my own actions as far as performing Mitzvahs, etc. I became a more fully immersed Jew, and furthered my studies. To be a B’nai Mitzvah means to accept the “yoke of the covenant”. It means you accept all the rights and responsabilities of a fully adult Jew.

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