Guide to Bnai Mitzvah at BHA


We are so excited that you are going to celebrate becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Beacon Hebrew Alliance!

Bar/Bat Mitzvah means son/daughter of the commandments and it is a ceremony marking the first steps your child will take towards becoming a morally accountable Jewish adult. In Jewish terms, your child will be accountable for living by the mitzvot, the commitments of Jewish living.  

This is a resource to help planning for your celebration. If you have any questions about any of the practical issues, please be in touch with Rabbi Brent Spodek, (831-2012 ext. 101) or Cantor Ellen Gersh, (831-2012 ext 102)



Please be in touch with Cantor Ellen Gersh to schedule a date for your child's celebration. Please note that BHA does not celebrate bnai mitzvah during the Jewish months of Elul and Tishrei - the month prior to Rosh HaShona and the month following. We simply cannot give children the attention they deserve during the busy holiday season. Also, we are not scheduling any bnai mitzvah before January, 2017, as we reasses how we approach this milestone at BHA.

Layning/Chanting Torah

Beginning eights months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah,  students will meet privately with the cantor for 45 minutes each week. They will learn the trope (musical notations) for layning (chanting) Torah and Haftarah (for the morning service) and will apply it to their portions. The students will spend time on the bima with the cantor so that they feel comfortable taking a leadership role on the day of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and for years to come. Please speak with Ellen regarding scheduling.

Dvar Torah/Teaching

in order to understand the meaning of their portion and to prepare for their dvar torah (teaching), the students will have seven to ten meetings of one hour each with the Rabbi. Parents should schedule these meetings as soon as possible with the synagogue administrator by emailing or by calling 831-2012 ext. 103.


A healthy spiritual life is something that emerges from the inside; it can be supported from the outside, but not forced. So we don’t “require” that people come to davven outside of the services which are now part of our Hebrew school program. However, we know that many people find it difficult to fully enter into the power of Jewish prayer, and there is no way to access that power except by regular exposure to the liturgy. Brent and Ellen are more than happy to discuss what it might take for your children - and you - to be a regular part of the davvening experience.

Avodah/Service Project

Of course, becoming an adult in our community means taking responsibility for our community.  Just as we ask adults in our community to volunteer for some Lev Maleh shifts, so too do we ask our bnai mitzvah students to be Lev Maleh - full hearted - volunteers. There are three 5775 dates set up specifically for teens on September 21, December 14 and March 21, or they can sign up for any shift on our Lev Maleh calendar. 


Beyond tuition, there is no formal fee for celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah at BHA. We don't want there to be any financial barriers to celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah at BHA. However, in recognition of the time and effort that goes into preparing students for their bar or bat mitzvah, families often choose to make a contribution to the Clergy Discretionary Fund at BHA. This fund allows us to fund programs that might not otherwise be possible and help families in need. There is no set amount; contributions have ranged from $50 to $5,000.  


Planning Meetings

Often families wish to honor many friends and relatives, which is wonderful. Parents should schedule contact the administrator to schedule two meetings - one three weeks before the bar mitzvah and one the week before. These meetings will provide an opportunity to review the order of the service and ensure that everyone who you wish to honor is included. Here is a planning document to help prepare; please list the people you hope to honor and bring it to the first of these two meetings.

Friday Night Kiddush

We expect that your family will want to be part of services the Friday night before your celebration. We ask that you sponsor the kiddush, or festive meal shared after services. Please see the kiddush checklist for a full list of what's needed, and please check with Cantor Ellen Gersh about any particular programing scheduled for that Friday night. Our Lev Maleh volunteers will supervise set up and clean up on Friday night; it is good and appropriate for part of your family to sign up for the shifts for your Friday night.

During the service:

  • We ask that no photographs be taken during the service. If you would like to photograph your child and family on the bima please contact Ellen to arrange a time.
  • Many families choose to make a pamphlet for the service; if you wish to do this, a model is here for you to refer to or adapt
  • The tradition of throwing candy is one that we would like to keep at BHA. We  will be responsible for purchasing the candy and  to avoid injury and chaos the B’nei Mitzvah student will gently toss candy at the congregation.

Saturday Afternoon

We hope that many guests and friends will be joining you for the celebration. Shabbat morning services will run from 9:30 AM till about 12:30 PM and by the time they are done, everyone needs a snack. We ask that you sponsor the kiddush, or festive meal shared after services.  Please see the kiddush checklist for a full list of what's needed. Please remember that we have no building staff here at BHA; your family is responsible for the set up of the downstairs space on Saturday morning and the clean up of the space on Saturday afternoon. If you would like to hire someone to manage this process, Judy Chaleff is familiar with the BHA kitchen and has provided this service for other families. All questions about fees and other specifics should be directed to Judy, who can be reached at or 914-309-2099.