You Say You Want a (B’nai Mitzvah) Revolution?



We are hearing regularly from congregations who know that bar and bat mitzvah have tremendous potential and are thinking about challenging the assumptions of traditional b’nai mitzvah in search of more meaningful and transformative experiences and to help reduce the staggering rates of post-b’nai mitzvah dropout.

The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution was launched a year ago with a small, committed pilot group of 14 congregations and has quickly grown to more than 90 who are involved in the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution network. Now, one year later, we are hearing from congregations asking to be connected to peers, and searching for new models with which to experiment. Many articles have been written in the Jewish media and beyond about how we can and should be answering these challenges of post-b’nai mitzvah dropout by tweaking existing models, creating more opportunities for community engagement, and yes, revolutionizing b’nai mitzvah.

B’nai Mitzvah Revolution participants have spent the year building their teams – rabbis, cantors, educators, and lay partners – who together identify the pressing issues that they are looking to address. They have spent many hours in conversation with their community determining the challenges and creating experimental models to foster change in their congregations. As this year of planning unfolded, the challenges that congregations are seeking to address coalesced in four areas:

  • Taking on new mitzvot
  • Balancing community and individuality: ensuring relevance to the youth and his or her family while also building connections and commitment to the broader community
  • Focusing on developmental transition: supporting students and parents for the transition into adolescence
  • Mentoring children and families: guiding families and young teens through the b’nai mitzvah process with the focus on developing deep relationships

Experiments will be launched this fall and you can follow their progress at the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution blog. Materials to facilitate some of these conversations within your own community can be found on the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution’s Active Learning Network page.

There will also be opportunities to begin or continue the conversation about revolutionizing b’nai mitzvah at the URJ Biennial in December.

Whether you are participating in the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution’s cohorts, or addressing these challenges within your own congregational teams, we’d like to hear from you. Let us know how you are addressing b’nai mitzvah in our brief 4-question survey.

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Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

About Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

Bradley Solmsen serves as the North American Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). For eleven years Bradley served as Director of Brandeis University’s Office of High School Programs which includes BIMA, Genesis, and Impact: Boston. Rabbi Solmsen was ordained at The Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and received a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bradley is currently pursuing a doctorate in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Davidson School. He has extensive experience as a Jewish educator in Israel and North America working with teenagers and college students and training Jewish educators. Bradley is married to Aliza Kline and is the proud abba of Ela, Gila and Nomi.

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