The B* Experience Program (BME) at SAJ invites middle school students to explore how they enter young adulthood both in the larger world and especially within the Jewish community. The passage of adolescence is not an easy one for youth or their parents. Leaving childhood, exploring independence, emerging sexuality, the challenge of peer relationships, parents recognizing the passage of time, relationships to Judaism are just some of the challenges of this period. Infused with the wisdom of Judaism, the Cantor and Rabbi and Education Director offer opportunities to engage with these practical, educational, and spiritual aspects of becoming a B* Mitzvah. A number of social programs are also included to help foster a greater sense of community among the students and parents of each class.
Some components of this program are:
Many schools ask students to do a “mitzvah Project.” Our version of this called “Havaya” which in Hebrew means “Experience.” In the year leading up to their b* mitzvah students engage in various activities and projects in three areas that speak to this particular life transition: Independence/Mastery of Skills, Learning, and Responsibility. Each student presents their work to the others and displays their Havaya poster at their B* mitzvah.
6th & 7th Grade Makom Shabbaton
During the Saturday Makom Shabbaton, Rabbi Lauren, Debra Fricano and/or Cantor Lisa facilitate sessions for 6th & 7th Graders and their grown-ups focused on key educational concepts for the B*mitzvah period.
Topics include “Becoming givers: Tzedakah and your B*mitzvah,” “The History and Meaning of B*mitzvah,” “How to Study Torah and Write a D’var Torah,” “Cultivating your personal Mitzvot.”
Experiential Learning for students and adults
While the Havaya Project is meant to be completed independently or as a family, we offer some experiences that will support the student in exploring Jewish learning, developing skills, social responsibility.
There have been in the past, and may be in the future, additional programs outside of regular Makom or Makom Shabbaton class time including but not limited to:
- Make a tallit
- Learn to wear Tefillin
- Tour a Mikveh
- Bake a Challah
- Cook Dinner
- Learn the history of Torah Trope
- Chant a line from the Megillah scroll on Purim
- Learn about the history of the Lower East Side Jewish communities
There will definitely be an opportunity for 6th grade students to observe another student’s B*Mitzvah service.
Students are also encouraged to attend the main Sanctuary services on weeks when it is available to students.
Note on Language:
Traditional reference to this life cycle service and celebrant include Bar Mitzvah (literally “son of the commandments”) Bat Mitzvah (literally “daughter of the commandments”) B’nai Mitzvah (plural masculine) B’note Mitzvah (plural feminine).
At SAJ we refer to the service and to the celebrant as a “B*Mitzvah” to reflect the many gender expressions of the students who experience this rite of passage. All ceremonies and celebrants will be called “B*mitzvah” in our communications. And, you may ask the clergy to refer to your celebration with any of the above mentioned terms.