You Say You Want a (B’nai Mitzvah) Revolution
Why do so many synagogues struggle with Hebrew instruction, t’fillah education, and post-b’nai mitzvah celebration? We have come to believe that these challenges — and others, too — are all related to one deep-seated problem: Jewish learning prior to age 13 is driven by the bar/bat mitzvah celebration.
This common practice was instituted more than 70 years ago to increase involvement in the synagogue. But, it has had the opposite effect. Treating bar/bat mitzvah as the goal and end point of Jewish education has degraded Hebrew learning, stifled efforts to expose students to the depth and meaning of communal worship, and led to high numbers of students dropping out of religious school immediately after the “big day.”
Is this a concern for your synagogue? If so, have leaders in your synagogue community been thinking about new ways of approaching b’nai mitzvah? Chances are, the answer is “yes.” We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re committed to finding them.
Since the Campaign for Youth Engagement was launched at the URJ Biennial in December, URJ professionals, lay leaders and our Movement-wide partners have been busy working out the details of this important initiative. In keeping with the mission and momentum of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, I am pleased to announce the launch of the The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a joint project of the URJ and HUC-JIR. B’nai Mitzvah Revolution will empower synagogues to improve the quality of Jewish education in their communities, reduce the staggering rates of post-b’nai mitzvah dropout, and return depth and meaning to Jewish learning.
In the next year, we will work together with a small number of congregations to explore this issue. This pilot cohort will learn together and share resources and ideas as they experiment with revolutionary approaches to b’nai mitzvah observance and preparation, as well as more effective models for learning Hebrew, kavannah (intentionality) in prayer, and other curricular areas. Dr. Isa Aron, Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR, joins me in serving as co-director of this exciting project.
How can your congregation get involved in the revolution?
- Visit the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution website for information about the project, find resources for your congregation and join the conversation
- Watch webinar to learn more about the pilot. It’s a great way to hear answers to common questions, get to know more about who we are, and help your congregation decide if this project is right for you.
- Apply by July 6th to be one of a select number of pilot congregations to explore new strategies to keep young people and their families engaged in Jewish life before, during and after b’nai mitzvah.
Please feel free to contact me with questions, suggestions or concerns. And remember: This is your Campaign!