A child becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is a sacred moment in the life of your entire family and in the life of the greater Westchester Jewish Center community. Your child, after many years of preparation, will step forward to take adult responsibilities in the context of our Jewish community. These responsibilities will touch on the three pillars of Jewish practice:
Torah (sacred study): Your child will study the day’s Torah portion and prepare a speech addressing its meaning.
Avodah (sacred service): Your child will lead the congregation in prayer and chant Torah and/or Haftarah.
G’milut Hasadim (acts of kindness): Your child begins or continues giving back to the community by helping people in need.
The procedures described in this guide will help your child reach this momentous and sacred day that marks the beginning of the process of becoming an adult.
The year leading up to the bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is full of lots of details and decisions. When things feel stressful, confusing, or overwhelming, take a moment to remember how amazing it is that your child is growing up and learning to take on more responsibilities. All of your and your child’s efforts will result in a moving, joyous and memorable experience.
You can model for your child a positive attitude toward preparation that focuses on the spiritual meaning of the occasion and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take one’s place as an adult in the Jewish community and tradition.
We hope that this site will help make the process transparent and easy to navigate. Our hope is that we are able to answer any questions you may have, and if it doesn’t, our door and our inboxes are always open so please reach out!
Our vision is that throughout this journey your whole family connects to the synagogue and its members, staff and clergy and learns more about Judaism and Jewish living. We strive to make this experience special and meaningful. Each family has the opportunity, the privilege and responsibility to customize the preparation and the day itself to suit the bar/bat mitzvah.
Enjoy this exciting, meaningful and spiritual time in your child’s life!
WJC B’Nei Mitzvah Committee
The bar/bat mitzvah ceremony is truly enhanced when the entire family is familiar with the Shabbat service. When the family feels more comfortable with the atmosphere of the Center, the prayers, and the service, everyone has a heightened experience of joy and meaning. In order to achieve this, we suggest that all b’nei mitzvah families attend Shabbat services twice per month during the year before your bar/bat mitzvah. If your bar/bat mitzvah is scheduled for Shabbat Mincha, please plan to attend that service.
Jewish education is a fundamental principle of our people and is certainly the basis of the b’nei mitzvah experience. Therefore, it is incumbent on all families to pledge their commitment to continue their child’s religious educational experience through the end of the 7th grade. Of course, we also encourage families to enroll students in the WJC Teen Community beginning in the 8th grade.
Each year leading up to the bar/bat mitzvah, our clergy will conduct classes for parents and children. These sessions will focus on the rituals, philosophies, and spirituality of the occasion, as well as help you learn about your child’s parsha. All parents are expected to participate.
In order to enhance our students’ appreciation of mitzvot, each child will be expected to participate and experience a variety of commandments. Some mitzvot will be in the realm of those that define our relationship with fellow human beings. Others will be from those that establish our relationship with God. The former will include tzedakah and community service. The latter will include mitzvot of prayer and rituals. In demonstrating the new privileges and obligations of becoming a bar/bat mitzvah, each child will be asked to commit to a post-bar/bat mitzvah project. It may be helpful to refer to WJC’s on-line booklet of Tikkun Olam opportunities when choosing a Mitzvah Project. The Rabbi/s will discuss this with each student when they meet to discuss their d’var Torah. You can also set up a post-bar/bat mitzvah meeting with the clergy to discuss these opportunities.
The Westchester Jewish Center is a community—indeed, we hope that it is an extended family. It is with this in mind, for those attending our Religious School, we urge that every consideration be given to inviting a child’s entire class when extending invitations to the ceremony and his/her party. Additionally, it is expected that if half or more of the grade are to be invited then all will be invited. However, we hope that you will impress upon your child that all classmates are special and despite close friendships or even rivalries, all will be welcome to participate in the simcha. Through your encouragement, hurt feelings will be prevented. This is the spirit of Judaism and family that we wish to instill in all our children.
When deciding on party favors for your child’s event, we suggest that you be mindful of your guests wearing event-related clothing such as T-shirts or sweatshirts to school following the event. This can lead to other children in their grade feeling left out. Our sensitivity to this matter is much appreciated by the wider community.
Please note that our expectations are fundamental to WJC’s view of the bar/bat mitzvah experience. The participation of our children in Jewish life and learning—beyond what occurs on the day of the bar/bat mitzvah itself—is dependent upon each family's own path of commitment to Jewish life and learning.
As you embark on this journey any administrative and logistical questions should be directed to Kim Lewis. She will assist you with many of your questions, and even when you need to reach out to Rabbi Arnowitz, Rabbi Dalton or Cantor Goldberg please copy Kim as well. Our goal is for you to have the spiritual guidance and administrative support necessary for a meaningful and well-organized event.
B’nei Mitzvah Fees
Our B’nei Mitzvah Fees include preparation through both 1-1 and group activities led by the rabbi, assistant rabbi, and cantor. Some activities and curriculum highlights include:
“B’nei Mitzvah and Beyond”
D’var Torah Writing
*See Kiddush descriptions on the following page.
Kitchen Use Fees for Outside Kosher Certified Caterers $500 (Choose either Dairy or Meat kitchen)
**While we recognize that there are many different reasons why families choose to have b’nei mitzvah at times other than Shabbat morning, it is highly encouraged for the family of the b’nei mitzvah to participate in the Shabbat morning services and/or enhance the kiddush, thus honoring your child amongst the broader WJC community.
** If additional security and/or staff is needed to keep the additional guests safe the family will be billed prior to the event. 2 guards for 4 hours (even if the event does not go that long) is approximately $370.
Please note-The clergy do not accept payment or monetary gifts from congregants for their services. Families who wish to honor the clergy with a donation to WJC in honor of their special event can consider a contribution to the discretionary funds of the rabbis and cantor. The clergy use these funds for their own professional development, to contribute to charities of their choice, to fund special projects at WJC and to help individuals in financial need discreetly.
In addition, WJC’s Sisterhood maintains a “Tree of Life” in the Main Lobby of WJC. Parents or relatives of a bar/bat mitzvah may choose to honor the child with an inscribed leaf commemorating this event. All contributions will be recognized in the Review.
We attempt to balance two important considerations in preparing our students for b’nei mitzvah. On the one hand, we want the bar/bat mitzvah to be a significant accomplishment for which the student works diligently to accomplish a considerable achievement and feels a genuine pride of accomplishment. On the other hand, this is a celebration, not a test, and we do not want to generate intolerable stress or anxiety. We therefore tailor the amount and type of material each student prepares to what is appropriate for them. Different students are able to prepare different amounts and types of material. Students work in priority order and prepare as many whole units as they can in the time they have. It is the job of the educators to find an amount and type of material and instructional method that fosters each student’s accomplishment.
These are the priorities for Shacharit (morning) and Mincha (afternoon) services:
Haftarah and its blessings
Maftir and remainder of 7th Aliyah (if applicable)
Additional aliyot and/or leading Musaf
Torah reading and aliyah blessing
Torah service for Shabbat Mincha
Rest of Mincha Service
Ma’ariv to conclude Shabbat, if applicable
Torah reading and aliyah blessing
Leading additional services
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Lessons
Weekly, individual lessons begin 6 - 8 months prior to your date. To begin, the cantor will meet with the student along with at least one parent to get to know each other, understand the process and answer your questions as well as establish a schedule of regular lessons. If you believe more time is required and /or if your child has special needs, please be sure to speak with Cantor Goldberg well in advance of the beginning of lessons. Our students learn either with Cantor Goldberg or Cantor Susan Alcott, a veteran tutor with lots of experience with WJC students.
Alternatively, you may choose to participate in our pilot Torah Corps program, a learning group which begins in the fall of 6th grade and ends in the winter of 8th grade regardless of when the bar/bat mitzvah is celebrated. Contact the cantor for more details.
Practice, practice, practice!
Because bar/bat mitzvah training requires skills-based learning and is cumulative, frequency and regularity of home practice sessions are very important. Students will be asked to set aside enough daily time for practice and preparation such that the student makes regular weekly progress to the satisfaction of the tutor, in addition to maintenance practicing of material already mastered. Remember: though this is a considerable time commitment it is only temporary, while the skills and self-confidence your child gains will last a lifetime.
Attendance & Punctuality
Students are expected to arrive on time for all scheduled tutoring sessions unless arrangements have been made with the tutor in advance. If the student is sick or unable to make the lesson, please contact the tutor ASAP to cancel and/or reschedule.
Preparation in synagogue skills is included in the B’nei Mitzvah fee. Some families choose to engage an outside private tutor instead of or in addition to what WJC provides. If you choose to do so, please coordinate carefully with Cantor Goldberg to ensure continuity between what each instructor is teaching.
Students with celebrations in the fall and winter are expected to continue their preparation over the preceding summer. Students who are home for all or part of the summer can continue their weekly sessions as much as possible. Students who are away from home can continue working remotely to the extent possible. If remote work is not possible, we expect students to review what they have learned so that lessons can resume in the fall without a need to re-learn material that had been already mastered. Some summer camps make various accommodations for b’nei mitzvah preparation; the cantor is able to coordinate with these and supply whatever materials are needed.
Getting a Head-Start
You can get a head start on b’nai mitzvah preparation in the following ways:
There is probably no more important aspect of preparation for the student and family than regular participation in Shabbat services prior to the bar/bat mitzvah service. Your familiarity with the service will greatly ease nervousness and enable you to feel a building sense of excitement and spiritual meaning, as well as an increased sense of connection to the WJC community.
Practice Hebrew decoding. We recommend the app Shalom Hebrew.
Review/learn the blessing for being called to the Torah, the blessings before and after the Haftarah (for Shabbat morning students) and the Torah service.
Cantor Goldberg can provide materials for early independent study before tutoring begins if desired. If you want to look at your child’s readings before formal tutoring begins, please ask Cantor Goldberg for materials. The Jewish liturgical calendar can be tricky and it’s important to make sure you’re working on the correct material.
Review your child’s schedule. The bar/bat mitzvah preparation period is relatively short but a serious time commitment. You may wish to temporarily lighten other extracurricular demands on your child’s schedule during this time.
Keeping In Touch
If concerns about your child’s progress arise during the preparation process, please contact Cantor Goldberg so that you can work together to address them as soon as possible. Each child is unique and every child at WJC deserves to have an enjoyable and fulfilling learning experience.
The Shabbat morning service is composed of five sections.
1. Morning Blessings (Bikhot HaShakhar):
These prayers orient us to a new day and the opportunities it presents.
2. Verses of Song (P’sukei D’zimra):
These poetic prayers, mostly from the Psalms, enable us to offer praise and gratitude to the Holy One and to create a prayerful mood for the more formal prayers that follow. The section is framed by the blessings Barukh She-amar (pg. 122) and Shochen Ad (pg. 147). Other highlights include Ashrei (pg. 136), the Song at the Sea (pg. 142) and Nishmat (pg. 145).
3. Morning Service (Shacharit):
This service contains the two major formal prayers that are recited daily, but in a version specific to Shabbat. The first is the Shema (pg. 155-156), the central declaration of Jewish faith, with blessings before and after that emphasize the core Jewish concepts of Creation, Revelation, and Redemption. The second is the climactic Amidah (pg. 159-166), so called because it is prayed while standing by those who are able. This prayer begins by evoking our ancestral merit, the saving care of God, and the holiness of God. The prayer continues with sections that concern the sanctity of Shabbat, the restoration of ancient forms of prayer, gratitude for the blessings of life, and hopes for peace. This quiet time is an ideal moment to include the prayers of your own heart alongside or instead of the prayers suggested by the siddur. At WJC, we recite the Amidah first individually and then aloud as a community.
4. Torah Service:
Just as the study of Torah is central to Jewish life, the public reading of the Torah is central to our service. We stand again at Sinai, encounter the holy words and consider their meaning today. The Torah scroll is removed from the Ark at the beginning of this section (pg. 168), which is often led by the bar or bat mitzvah. Each week, we read a different section of the Torah, following the annual cycle of Torah reading.
The Torah service includes many honors (described below), which create opportunities to celebrate special moments in the life of the community and its members. The bar/bat mitzvah will be called for an aliyah to the Torah, formally marking their acceptance of the privileges and responsibilities of Jewish adults. Then, the bar or bat mitzvah will often chant the Haftarah, a passage from the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible that relates either to the Torah portion that was read, or to the moment on the Jewish calendar. The Torah and Haftarah readings may be found in the large blue volume, the Stone Chumash, and the large red volume, Etz Hayim. You are encouraged to follow along with the readings and consider the commentaries on the page. Following the Haftarah, we recite prayers for communal concerns (pg. 176-182) and then return the Torah to the Ark (pg. 183-184).
(On certain special occasions, additional psalms of praise known as Hallel are recited at this point.) Either during or following the Torah service, the rabbi, the bar or bat mitzvah, or another member of the community will offer an interpretation of the Torah or Haftarah known as a d’var Torah (word of Torah).
5. Additional Service (Musaf):
In ancient times, Shabbat and holidays were marked by an additional sacrifice. Today, we instead offer an additional service that features an additional Amidah (pg.185-192). This Amidah begins and ends the same way as the one said during the morning service, but the middle uses different imagery, drawn from the ancient sacrificial system, to accentuate the special sanctity of Shabbat and/or the holiday. The service then concludes with some closing passages that help us transition out of prayer, including Aleinu (sometimes led by siblings or other young relatives), the Mourner’s Kaddish, Anim Z’mirot and Adon Olam (also sometimes led by siblings or other young relatives). We then continue our celebration of Shabbat through sharing a meal, which begins with the blessings over wine (Kiddush) and bread said in the sanctuary.
The Shabbat afternoon service is composed of four sections.
A selection from the Psalms, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to gather in prayer. This is followed by a collection of biblical verses.
2. The Torah Service:
The Torah contains the basic teachings and narratives of Judaism. It is read as part of a cycle retold each year by Jews around the world. On Shabbat afternoon, we read the beginning of the upcoming week’s Torah portion as a kind of preview. This reading is divided into three parts. Three individuals or groups of people will be given an aliyah, or honor, by being called to the Torah to recite a blessing before and after the reading of each part. Typically the first aliyah is given to grandparents or older siblings, the second to the parents and the third to the bar/bat mitzvah, formally marking their acceptance of the privileges and responsibilities of Jewish adults. The Torah readings may be found in the large blue volume, the Stone Chumash, and the large red volume, Etz Hayim. You are encouraged to follow along with the readings and consider the commentaries on the page.
3. The Amidah, or standing prayer:
We usually begin this prayer together and continue individually. On Shabbat afternoon, this prayer emphasizes Shabbat as a day of rest and taste of redemption.
4. Presentations by the bar or bat mitzvah, the parents and the rabbi:
The bar/bat mitzvah will present their d’var torah, followed by blessings from the parents and the rabbi. When the service begins towards dusk, we will conclude with the ma’ariv (evening service) and havdalah, the ceremony for marking the end of shabbat and the beginning of the week.
Tallit and Tefillin
One of the mitzvot that b’nei mitzvah fulfill is the mitzvah of wearing a tallit. In the months leading up to the bar/bat mitzvah, purchase a tallit to wear on the day itself and subsequently in your life as a Jewish adult. A tallit often becomes a prized possession used for decades and passed on as an heirloom. You can purchase a tallit through the Sisterhood Gift Shop or though a number of Judaica vendors. Some families have an heirloom tallit that belonged to a relative and choose to wear it at the bar/bat mitzvah.
WJC members have the opportunity to learn about tefillin and how to put them on with Rabbi Arnowitz during the annual World Wide Wrap. Those celebrating at a weekday service (including Rosh Chodesh) will wear tefillin at the bar/bat mitzvah, but all Jewish adults should own and know how to wear tefillin. Contact the clergy with any questions about this.
During the course of the service, certain honors may be assigned to family members and/or friends who are Jewish adults. There are some honors that can be given to children who are prepared to take them on. The honors available as shown on the honors sheet represent the maximum you may assign: you do not need to assign all of them. Submit the forms linked below to Cantor Goldberg at least one week prior to the bar/bat Mitzvah.
Shabbat Morning Honors Sheet
Mincha Honors Sheet
These may include but are not limited to:
WJC encourages our members to participate in our services by reading from the Torah. The cantor can help you prepare for this honor. If you or a family member would like to participate in this way, please contact Cantor Goldberg who will help you coordinate it.
Aliyot to the Torah
The honor to be called up to the bimah to recite the blessings before and after a segment of the day’s Torah portion is read. The meaning of the word is “ascent,” which refers both to the physical ascent of coming up to the bimah, and the spiritual ascent of blessing the chanting of sacred words.
For Shabbat morning: In addition to the aliyah given to your child, there are seven other aliyot. We allot one aliyah for the parent(s) of the bar/bat Mitzvah and up to three aliyot for the bar/bat mitzvah family to assign to family and friends as an honor. We usually call the bar/bat mitzvah parents for the 7th aliyah, so that they will be on the bimah at the time of their child’s aliyah.
For Shabbat afternoon: In addition to the aliyah given to your child, there are two other aliyot for the bar/bat mitzvah family to give to family and friends as an honor. We recommend that the bar/bat mitzvah parent(s) are called for the second aliyah, so that they will be on the bimah at the time of their child’s aliyah. The first aliyah is often assigned to older siblings or grandparents.
Those who are honored with an aliyah must be Jewish, over the age of 13, and should be able to sing or recite the blessings in Hebrew. Up to four people may be given the same aliyah if necessary, but one or two honorees per aliyah is preferable. A Jewish person receiving an aliyah may be accompanied by his/her partner or spouse of a different faith.
Once on the bimah for the aliyah, the honoree(s) may touch the fringe of a tallit, or the Torah’s belt, to the spot in the Torah scroll the reader indicates, and then touch it to the lips. The honoree(s) then recite the blessing, which can be found on page 172 of the siddur.
As he or she chants the text according to the intricate traditions of cantillation, the Torah reader customarily points to the place with an ornate yad (pointer). This enables the honoree to follow the reading of the passage to which he or she was called. At its conclusion, one touches the last spot pointed to by the Torah reader with a tallit or the Torah’s belt and recites the second blessing. The honoree(s) then move to the side and remain on the bimah for the next aliyah.
Hagbah (lifting the Torah)
Once the congregation concludes the reading from a Torah scroll, it is lifted and displayed to the community. The person lifting the Torah should slide it partially off the reading table while bending the knees. Then, the lifter straightens the knees and turns around so as to display the scroll. It is customary to lift the Torah in such a way as to enable the congregants to see at least three of the scroll’s columns. It should be noted that the Torah is heavy, and, during certain times of the year, heavily weighted to one side. It is best to offer this honor to someone who has past experience with it.
Gelilah (dressing the Torah)
The person honored with Gelilah will tie the Torah, place the mantle over it, and then replace the Yad (Torah pointer) and crown. Each item, together with instructions, will be provided by a WJC officer or clergy member who will be standing with the honoree.
Leading A Prayer for Our Country (in English)
We offer a prayer on behalf of the United States on page 177 in the left margin of the prayer book. The prayer is recited by the entire congregation with the leader, and is entirely in English.
Opening the Ark
The significance of certain prayers is emphasized by opening the Ark. We also open the Ark prior to taking out or replacing the Torah. Each bar/bat Mitzvah family is offered a number of Ark openings as honors, which each involves 1-4 people.
The honorees should approach the Ark immediately prior to the recitation or chanting of the prayer, slide the doors to the side at the commencement of the prayer (two honorees can handle one door each), stand in front of the Ark slightly to the left or right, and close the doors as the prayer ends. Some Ark openings also involve a procession through the Sanctuary. Ark openers should bring their prayer books with them while performing this honor.
The cantor will be happy to go over with you all of the details that those receiving honors should know. For those receiving aliyot, we can also provide a sheet with the blessings in Hebrew, English and transliteration as well as a recording.
Parents or guardians have the option to share a personal blessing for their child(ren) at any bar or bat mitzvah service.
In order to help you design the best and most appropriate blessing for the service, parents must attend one of the "Build-A-Blessing" workshops with Rabbi Arnowitz held periodically throughout the year. The workshop will help you understand what exactly is the role of blessing in Judaism and explore Jewish norms for creating a blessing; you should be able to walk out with the beginnings of your child’s blessing and lots of ideas in hand.
You will be invited to attend a workshop in the months prior to the bar or bat mitzvah.
Grandparents of a different faith may offer a prayer in English that expresses their joy and pride in seeing their grandchild take his/her place in the Jewish community.
Each bar/bat Mitzvah family is encouraged to select two WJC congregants to be the “greeters” at the sanctuary door. Greeters should arrive at the beginning of the service and welcome congregants and bar/bat Mitzvah guests into the sanctuary.
Sibling above the age of bar/bat mitzvah may open the ark, read Torah or take an aliyah to the Torah. All siblings may lead prayers like Ashrei, Ein Keloheinu, Aleinu, Anim Z’mirot and/or Adon Olam. Children below bar/bat mitzvah age may participate in Ark openings with adults. Please discuss siblings’ participation with the cantor at least 3 months prior.
Hebrew and English Names
Those who have been assigned an aliyah to the Torah will be formally called up to do so by their full Hebrew name ([Hebrew first name] ben/bat [Hebrew names of father and/or mother]). Providing these in advance on the honors sheet helps the service to move smoothly.
The terms bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah each mean “subject to the commandments” and refer to the teens’ new status as Jewish adults who are legally and morally responsible for their own behavior and who can take adult roles in a Jewish community such as counting toward a minyan (prayer quorum) (b’nai mitzvah is the plural.)
Like most terms in the Hebrew language, these terms are gendered. At WJC, we continue to use the terms bar mitzvah (for male-identified teens) and bat mitzvah (for female-identified teens) which are familiar to and appropriate for many of our families and teens.
Other than this slight difference in terminology, the experience and expectations for this lifecycle moment are the same for all of our teens regardless of gender identity. They are invited to participate in all aspects of the service and receive the same gifts from the congregation.
As understandings of gender continue to evolve in our society, these gendered terms have become inappropriate for some of our students and families. You may choose to use a gender-neutral term to describe the new status this ceremony celebrates, such as brit mitzvah (covenant of commandments), gil mitzvot (age of commandments) or kabbalat mitzvah (acceptance of commandments). Please discuss with Rabbi Arnowitz if you would like to use one of these terms.
Relatedly, people who have aliyot to the Torah (saying blessings before and after each of the readings) are generally called up using a gendered formula in Hebrew (Ya’amod (m) or Ta’amod (f), which both mean “arise” and are followed by that person’s name, son or daughter of that person’s parents’ names). A gender-neutral version of this formal invitation to have an aliyah is available for anyone who would prefer it. (Na la’amod XXX mibeit YYY v’ZZZ, Please rise XXX from the house of YYY and ZZZ [parents’ names].) Please discuss this with Rabbi Arnowitz prior to the ceremony.
It is a custom in our synagogue to toss candy at the bar/bat Mitzvah as an act of sweetness and celebration. Two Sunkist Fruit Gems (or other small, soft, Kosher candy) should be wrapped together in netting and tied with a ribbon. (If you are hosting a meat kiddush following the service, make sure the candy is pareve (nondairy)). Assign a friend or extended family member to distribute a maximum of 25 small bags to members of your family and adult friends. The Rabbi will indicate when they should be given out and when they should be thrown.
Spice Bags and Havdalah Candle for Havdalah
For Havdalah b’nei mitzvah, it is recommended that spice bags be made for your guests. Fill small net bags with sweet smelling spices (such as a cinnamon stick, allspice, whole cloves, mulling spices, herbal teas) and tie with ribbon. There should be approximately one bag for every two adults. The rabbi will indicate to you when they should be given out. Many families choose to provide a Havdalah candle, which can be purchased at the Sisterhood Gift Shop.
Timing & Seating for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family
For all services, bar/bat mitzvah families should arrive at WJC 10 minutes before the service begins. The immediate family usually sits in the front row on the right side (facing the bimah).
Shabbat morning (Shacharit) services begin at 9:15 a.m. and usually conclude around 12:00 p.m.
The Shabbat Mincha/Havdalah service takes place during the last 75 minutes of Shabbat. The timing is determined by sunset and will vary with the time of year.
The Shabbat Mincha-only service begins at an agreed-upon time (usually between 5-6pm) with the Rabbi and lasts one hour.
The family may provide kippot and women’s head coverings for the service, to be placed in the lobby outside the Sanctuary. Custom kippot can be ordered from a number of online vendors or through the Sisterhood Gift Shop.
You may arrange for a table and tablecloth with Kim. Please include bobby pins or clips for the kippot and women’s head coverings as well as baskets to hold all of these items. If you would like to use baskets owned by WJC please let Kim know.
Descriptive booklets can be distributed to your guests explaining the service and rituals. There are templates for both morning services and Mincha/Havdalah services. If you wish to have these available please let Kim know at least one month in advance.
On Shabbat morning, an officer or trustee of the congregation offers congratulations on behalf of the community and presents the bar/bat mitzvah with several gifts from different groups within WJC. If you are having a Mincha or Mincha/Havdalah service, at approximately 6 months prior to your simcha you may request a WJC officer or trustee to make a congratulatory speech and extend synagogue gifts at your bar/bat mitzvah. Otherwise, the rabbi will do so.
If you would like a particular officer or trustee to make this presentation for your service, please contact them directly with your request.
Some congregants follow the tradition of having a drink of “schnapps” (usually Scotch whiskey) at kiddush. If desired, you may provide a bottle of scotch to be placed with the Kiddush wine. If planning a catered kiddush, please remind your caterer that they must provide small shot glasses of kosher wine on a tray.
Please email a .jpeg headshot of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and a 75-word write up to be printed in WJC’s monthly newsletter to Kim by the 10th of the month prior to the month of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah (for example, submit the text for a May 25 bat mitzvah by April 10). Included are samples of previous blurbs.
Optional Pre Bar/Bat Mitzvah Services
Thursday or Monday Morning Minyan
Some families attend the morning 7:00 a.m. minyan on the Thursday immediately before or the Monday immediately after their child’s bar/bat mitzvah. This is an opportunity for the bar/bat mitzvah to practice having an aliyah at the Torah and to wear a tallit and tefillin for the first time. Those with b’nei mitzvah at Shabbat Mincha may consider attending the Monday morning minyan immediately after the bar/bat mitzvah, at which the student can (usually) read the same Torah reading s/he prepared. Bring tallit and tefillin. Photography is permitted. It is a nice gesture to serve bagels, cake or cookies that morning.
Friday Evening Service
Your family and any guests are invited to attend Friday evening services the evening before the bar/bat mitzvah service. If desired, your child may take part in the service by leading Kiddush, Aleinu or other prayers. Consult the website or Review for the exact time, which changes based on the time of sunset-in the winter it can be as early as 4:15pm, and is never later than 7:15pm.
Out of respect for Shabbat and the holy nature of the synagogue, we ask everyone to observe the following guidelines:
At all times:
As a sign of respect for the sanctity of the synagogue, we ask that respectful behavior, modest dress and good taste be paramount.
Smoking of any kind is not permitted anywhere on the synagogue grounds.
On Shabbat (Friday evening through nightfall on Saturday):
Cell phones should be silenced and put away, with the exception of medical personnel who are on call. Please make sure that children and teens who bring a cell phone have a pocket or small bag in which to put it.
It is inappropriate to bring gifts or exchange money.
Recorded music or live musical instruments for entertainment purposes and photography and videotaping are not permitted anywhere on WJC grounds. A cappella singers are allowed.
Dress appropriately for where you are and what you’re doing.
It is our goal to be inclusive of all who seek a place in our community. Please let your guests know of our available accommodations, as appropriate.
In and around our building we provide
Handicapped-accessible and gender-neutral one-user restrooms
Drop off by curb cut near the Sanctuary doors for those in wheelchairs or who need assistance
Handicapped parking spaces
Curb cuts in the sidewalks for wheelchair access in parking areas
A children’s diaper changing room on the first floor near the Youth Lounge
Dual height water fountains
A quiet space for breastfeeding
In the Sanctuary
A wheelchair lift to the Bimah
Large print prayer books
Assisted listening devices for the hearing impaired
Designated spaces for wheelchairs
Designated space with books and toys for small children and their parents
Currently, we broadcast a livestream of all services in the sanctuary. The stream is accessible on our website: https://www.wjcenter.org/wjclive/. The broadcast begins before Shabbat starts on Friday afternoon and can be set up at home such that no manipulation of the computer is necessary on Shabbat-see instructions on that page.
Sign Language Interpretation
We can provide sign language interpretation. Please contact Kim so that WJC can arrange for that accommodation.
If you need Shabbat lodging for any of your guests, consider the Mamaroneck Motel at 1015 Boston Post Road, which is within walking distance of WJC. Call (914) 698-0671 for prices and availability.
Our Main Sanctuary seats approximately 315 people. Average attendance at Shabbat morning services is 75. Please let WJC know three weeks in advance the number of family and guests expected. We have the ability to seat up to 600 people if we open the wall to the Reception Room.
If you prefer, Shabbat Mincha and weekday b’nei mitzvah may be held in the Allen A. Stein Memorial Chapel if fewer than 125 people are expected. Note, however, that there is no live streaming capability on Shabbat from the chapel.
Photos are allowed at the conclusion of the Mincha/Maariv service as the Havdalah service begins. Taking posed photos in the Sanctuary (not on Shabbat) must be scheduled with Kim who can also coordinate participation of the rabbis and cantor.
Families may order two Bimah floral arrangements (or use the two WJC silk arrangements) for the Sanctuary. Flowers or other centerpieces may also be used for the Shabbat morning kiddush for the buffet table(s) and the round guest tables. Centerpieces should not be removed from the building until after Shabbat.
The synagogue building closes at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons. Please arrange with Kim for deliveries.
Due to security needs, b’nei mitzvah families must submit the names of their guests to Kim three weeks in advance of their simcha. The security guard may refer to this if there are any concerns with giving someone entry to the building. Include invited guests who have not yet confirmed their attendance to you.
Guests should park in the main parking lot. If it is full they will be able to find parking on the street. Teens may be dropped off and picked up near the sanctuary entrance.
Bus Transport Protocols
One month before the event, the bus company must give Kim an insurance binder naming WJC as an additional insured. Buses must wait off site until five minutes before the end of the service. Keep walkways clear and engines off.
Shabbat Afternoon Luncheon
WJC policy requires Shabbat morning b’nei mitzvah families to sponsor and attend the congregational kiddush following Shabbat morning services. Fostering a feeling of inclusiveness and community is our goal. All food must be available at the start of the congregational kiddush-do not plan for a cocktail hour with passed hor d'oeuvres before the buffet opens. For families who choose to have b’nei mitzvah at times other than Shabbat morning, we nonetheless highly encourage the family of the b’nei mitzvah to participate in the Shabbat morning services and/or enhance the kiddush on the day of the bar/bat mitzvah, thus honoring your child amongst the broader WJC community.
Other Private Receptions
At other times, with the approval of the Executive Director, you may be able to utilize public areas of WJC including the Reception Room, Social Hall/Gym, Activity Center or other space. The stage may not be used by guests due to safety concerns, but is available for musicians. Space reservations are available only to WJC member families.
If you wish to have a private afternoon luncheon reception on Shabbat at WJC, it may begin at 1:30 p.m. Your reception may take place in the Social Hall/Gym or the Activity Center. You can also speak to Kim about setting up a tent outdoors.
Room Reservation Requirements
A Room Reservation Form and a non-refundable deposit are required to reserve space for a reception.
The baseline party fee includes up to 100 guests. The fee increases for 101-200 guests, 201-300 guests, and 301-400 guests. For over 300 guests you must review party plans with the office. This fee includes the use of the Social Hall/Gym, Reception Room and Activity Center.
Please note, a kitchen use fee of $500 is charged to the caterer.
For Friday night dinners, the use of a single room is expected. Fees vary based on half or full room usage and number of guests.
In the event that additional security is needed due to size, the family hosting the event will be billed. 2 guards for 4 hours (even if the event does not go that long) is approximately $370.
If you choose to use the WJC in-house kiddush your menu choices must be finalized 6 weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. To enhance a kiddush, families are welcome to bring Kosher-certified items to be placed by synagogue staff. All kiddush arrangements must be confirmed with the office.
Weather permitting, tables may be placed outdoors and Kiddush may be held in the Activity Center and back patio.
If you choose to have the Kiddush provided by an outside caterer you may choose from the WJC-vetted list, or you may submit a different caterer’s certificate of Kashrut to Rabbi Arnowitz for approval. There is a fee charged to the caterer for the use of the WJC kitchen. Please don’t sign any catering agreement until connecting with the WJC office.
In the interest of safety for persons and property, private security guards will be hired by WJC for any reception.
Parents of the bar/bat mitzvah child should introduce themselves to the security guard upon arrival in the building, since parents will be contacted if it is necessary to report any misbehavior during the reception.
Ladies’ Room Attendant
For safety and cleanliness, a ladies room attendant will be hired by WJC, to be present throughout the duration of the reception for parties of 100 or more persons. This cost is included in the party fee.
Coatroom attendants may be hired for a reception through the WJC office. Please inquire about this at least 1 month in advance.
It is strongly suggested that “Party Counselors” be retained by b’eni mitzvah families to ensure that all children attending the reception are always under the supervision of an adult throughout the reception’s duration. Furthermore, unsupervised children are not permitted in the parking lots or on the grounds outside of the building entrances. Consequently, any child found by our security personnel in these areas will be escorted back into the building, and the bar/bat mitzvah parents notified.
When a bar/bat mitzvah family secures the reception space for a Saturday evening, they get the use of the meat kitchen beginning on Friday. The family responsible for the Shabbat morning kiddush gets the use of the dairy kitchen.
Attend the b’nei mitzvah Information session. Submit service selection form.
Receive bar/bat mitzvah date in the spring.
Receive your B’nei mitzvah Torah and Haftarah portion at a framing activity.
Start working with the Cantor as part of “Torah Corps”
Engage in sessions with the clergy to learn more about what it means to become b’nei mitzvah.
Start working through the 13 Mitzvot.
Participate in the “World Wide Wrap”
Continue to work with the Cantor as part of “Torah Corps”.
Participate in the “World Wide Wrap”.
Continue to work through the 13 Mitzvot.
Attend services to learn the melodies and rhythms of the service.
We invite parents to accept the honor of being a Shabbat greeter. Participation will increase your comfort with the service, and allow you to interact with fellow congregants. Discover an enjoyable experience in becoming the welcoming face of our community! Please choose a date within the year of your simcha.
Regularly check-in with Rabbi Arnowitz on one’s 13 Mitzvot journey
Begin to plan for a Mitzvah Project with the rabbi if interested.
Begin individual tutoring with the cantor or tutor (if not participating in Torah Corps).
Attend D’var Torah Group Workshop
Plan on when to attend "Build a Blessing" workshop.
Choose your bar/bat mitzvah service greeters and let Kim know who they are. Consider partnering with another family celebrating this year to be greeters at each other’s services. This helps the day run smoothly.
Request an officer/trustee for gift giving honor (for services not on Shabbat morning). Invite a particular trustee or officer directly if desired.
Discuss siblings’ participation in the service with the cantor.
Guest List - Be considerate and invite either less than half the class, or the whole Religious School class (if your child attends RS) so that peers do not feel left out.
The office will confirm that all synagogue payments are current. If there are any concerns contact Kim or the Executive Director, David Goldstein
Room Decorations - Families may order a Bimah floral arrangement or use the WJC silk floral arrangement for the sanctuary. Families may also plan for flowers for the kiddush. Please let Kim know of your plans
Confirm party plans with the office.
Plan for Kiddush. Notify Kim if you plan on using an outside caterer for Shabbat morning kiddush and parties. Or discuss with Kim the options for using WJC’s in-house kiddush.
Sisterhood Tree of Life Program - Sign up here for a leaf and/or speak to Kim.
Email a .jpeg photo of the bar/bat mitzvah and the 75-word write up to be printed in WJC’s monthly newsletter to Kim at Kim@wjcenter.org. Please include your child’s name and bar/bat mitzvah date in the subject of the email. No need for the child to introduce him/herself since his/her name will appear in bold directly over the blurb.
Order Kippot and women’s head coverings. Remember to purchase bobby pins or clips as well as a basket if you have a preference.
Tallit and Tefillin - Choose and order the tallit for the bar/bat mitzvah. Tefillin is encouraged for boys and girls. Sisterhood members receive a 20% Gift Shop discount.
Plan for Shabbat accommodations if needed.
D’var Torah - Kim will reach out to set up meetings with Rabbi Dalton to discuss your child’s D’var Torah.
Programs- Contact Kim if you wish to create descriptive booklets.
Party counselors- For evening receptions, WJC will provide security personnel. We strongly recommend that you retain “party counselors” to supervise the activities of the children. You are responsible for any damage to the building resulting from its use for your reception.
Order Bimah flowers if desired. Some families, in lieu of or in addition to floral arrangements for the Bimah, provide food baskets to distribute to one or more social agencies in our area.
Kiddush - Let Kim know the approximate number of guests, and confirm kiddush plans.
Photos - Arrange with Kim and clergy for photos to be taken during the week in the Sanctuary. Reserve the sanctuary with Aleza Kulp.
Students will begin practicing their synagogue skills with their tutor (Cantor Goldberg or Cantor Alcott) “on location” in the sanctuary. The goal is to get comfortable with the space, Torah scroll, microphone and other aspects of the sanctuary. If possible, these will occur during the regularly-scheduled tutoring time. If that is not possible, an alternative time can be arranged. Parents are welcome but not required to attend.
Morning Minyan - Speak to Kim or the clergy to make arrangements for participating in a morning minyan immediately before or after the bar/bat mitzvah day. The clergy can help you borrow or purchase Tefillin.
Honors - Give Cantor Goldberg a list of those being honored and their relationship to the bar/bat mitzvah.
Inform Kim of:
Number of guests
Names of guests for security purposes
Confirm staged photos in Sanctuary
Candy - Prepare a maximum of 25 small bags to be distributed to adults only.
Special Accomodations - Notify the office to make any special arrangements
Kiddush “Schnapps” - purchase a bottle of scotch to be placed with the kiddush wine. If kiddush is catered, remind your caterer that they must provide small shot glasses of kosher wine on a tray.
Havdalah spices and candle (for Mincha/Ma’ariv b’nei mitzvah): Prepare approximately one bag for every two adults. A Havdalah candle can be purchased at the Sisterhood Gift Shop.
Make plans for leftover food to be picked up and donated to local agencies on Sunday.
Shabbat Decorum- Actively encourage your and your child’s guests to use appropriate behavior while attending religious services and remind them: appropriate dress, no cellphone usage, no smoking, no cameras, no live or recorded music. Their respectful and enthusiastic participation in the service is how they can celebrate you and honor your friendship.
Hired Buses-Remind the bus company that rented buses may not enter synagogue property during Shabbat.
Confirm Honors - Give Cantor Goldberg a list of those being honored and their relationship to the bar/bat mitzvah. Remember to include full Hebrew names where indicated.
Shabbat Morning Honors
Shabbat Mincha Honors
Things to Bring to WJC
Kippot, bobby pins or clips, women’s head covering and bobby pins
Baskets for above items
Bottle of Scotch.
Arrange with Kim for dropping off items or any other vendors.
Catering- Food deliveries must be completed before 2:00 p.m. on Friday.
Flowers - Flowers must be delivered before 1:00 p.m. Friday, and not removed until after Shabbat. Flowers may only be placed on the far side of the Bimah, not on the steps.
Gratuities - Gratuities for custodial staff are not included in your fees. While optional, they are truly appreciated.
Arrival - bar/bat Mitzvah families arrive ten minutes before services are scheduled to begin. The family usually sits in the front row, right side.
Your child’s binder for his/her readings
Your child’s D’var Torah (also in the binder)
Your speech/words to commemorate the mitzvah
Extra list of honors
Candy in basket
Optional customized booklets
A bottle of water for your child
Spices and Havdalah candle (Mincha/Ma’ariv service only)
Now relax, and enjoy this wonderful and spiritual occasion! Mazel Tov!
Takes pleasure in honoring you with an
The one who lifts the Torah
Upon being called for your honor, please sit next to the rabbi. You will then proceed to the right side of the Reader’s Table.
When it is time to lift the Torah, please stand in front of the Reader’s Table. Holding the two wooden handles at the bottom of the Torah with each hand, slide the Torah toward you so that approximately half of the Torah is off the Table. Then proceed to push down the handles toward the floor, thus lifting the Torah up into the air. Hold the Torah up so that the congregation can see it.
It is tradition to open the Torah while holding it high so that three columns of the text are visible to the congregation. However, if you feel that this will cause you to drop or damage the Torah please do not attempt to open it that wide.
With the Torah still held up high, proceed to the seat immediately next to the rabbi’s. There, someone will tie and dress the Torah. After the Torah is dressed properly, someone will take the Torah from you and place it in the holder on the side of the Bimah.
When the Torah is taken from you, you may return to your seat. As you do so, please allow those on the Bimah to congratulate you on your honor.
Reminder: Men must wear a kippah and a tallit.
Takes pleasure in honoring you with an
The one who ties and dresses the Torah
Upon being called for your honor, please sit next to the rabbi. You will then proceed to the right side of the Reader’s Table.
When the Torah is lifted from the Reader’s Table, it will be brought to the seat next to the rabbi’s. Follow the Torah to that seat. If the Torah is at all open, take the top handles of the Torah and roll it tight. You will then be handed the tie, which is placed around the Torah and buckled in the front. The mantle (cloth cover) is then placed over the Torah with the design facing the person holding the Torah.. The pointer is placed on the left handle. Someone will then take the Torah to the holder on the side of the Bimah.
When the Torah is taken, you may return to your seat. As you do so, please allow those on the Bimah to congratulate you on your honor.
Reminder: Men must wear a kippah and a tallit.
Takes pleasure in honoring you with leading
A Prayer for Our Country
Upon being called to the Bimah, please take a seat. You will then proceed to the right lectern (facing the congregation). You then begin the prayer, and the congregation will join in.
A Prayer for our Country appears on page 177 left margin of the siddur. The text also appears below.
Our God and God of our ancestors, grant to our country the will and wherewithal to fulfill its calling to justice, liberty, and equality.
May each of us fulfill our responsibilities of citizenship with care, generosity, and gratitude, ever conscious of the extraordinary blessing of freedom, ever mindful of our duties to one another. Bless those who volunteer to labor on behalf of us all; may they find the strength and courage to complete their tasks and fulfill their dreams.
May our judges, elected leaders, and all who hold public office exercise their responsibilities with wisdom, fairness, and justice for all. Fill them with love and kindness, and bless them that they may walk with integrity on the paths of peace and righteousness.
Creator and protector of all, watch over our armed forces and all those entrusted with our safety, as they daily put their lives at risk to protect us and our freedoms. Be with them in times of danger; give them courage to act with honor and dignity, as well as insight to do what is right in Your eyes.
Fill us all with the gifts of love and courage, that we may create a world that reflects Your glory. May we each respond to the charge of Your prophet, “For what does Adonai demand of You- but to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Your God” (Micah 6:8). May the one who brings peace on high bring peace and prosperity to our world and keep us in safety. And let us say: Amen
I thank you for the opportunity to see my beautiful grandchild take his/her place in her synagogue and with her/his community.
May you be blessed to grow in good health.
May you always have a good mind and a warm heart.
May your soul reach out to others and to God
Never doubt the love of your family
Never doubt the strength of your community
And never doubt yourself.
Today you are a great source of pride for me and our family. May you feel the same pride in yourself and may we all be given the opportunity to share moments like these for many years to come.
Westchester Jewish Center welcomes your contribution to any of our listed funds.