Our program culminates in a group bar/bas mitsve program for children ages twelve and thirteen.
Students spend the year creating individual and collaborative projects that reflect their passions and commitments, and form a tightly-knit, supportive group.
The year ends in a cultural b’nei (group) mitsve, a collective ceremony in which the graduating students represent their Jewish identity to a welcoming community of family and friends.
The b’nei mitsve year combines the following activities:
Core Research Project
Each student chooses a research topic that draws from Jewish history or culture. The topics reflect a diversity of interests and passions and the rigor of study and self-exploration.
Core projects have included:
- Performing a monologue in the character of Albert Einstein, meditating on his conflicting religious, scientific, and pacifist identities.
- Exploring connections between involvement in Occupy Wall Street, the life of Emma Goldman, and a Torah portion: Korach.
- Studying the Yiddish poet and singer Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, performing one of her songs, and composing original Yiddish poetry.
Each student conducts an oral history video interview with an elderly member of his or her family. Through planning and executing these videos, students explore their family heritage and discover their unique connection to the larger Jewish community.
Their teacher then weaves together these interviews into a collective oral history video to be on view at the b’nei mitsve ceremony.
The responsibility to the community that our students demonstrate through their community service projects reflect the Jewish values of justice (tzedek), compassion (hesed), and peace (sholem).
Over the course of the year, students in the b'nei mitsve class meet for community service activities outside of the regular shule day. These activities are drawn from students' interests and have included making "surgi-dolls" for kids undergoing surgery, organizing a game day for children at a homeless shelter, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and making sandwiches for food pantries.
Each b’nei mitsve class focuses on social justice issues of their choice and engages with these issues through activism, fundraising, and advocacy. Our annual b’nei mitsve bike ride provides community members and friends with a chance to cheer on the class and contribute to their chosen causes.
Remember Us Project
In the beginning of the school year, each b’nei mitsve student receives a certificate from the Remember Us Project, the international organization that matches students with a child lost in the Holocaust.
The idea is that every child will be remembered. To date, more than 17,000 b’nei mitsve students from all over the world have participated.
Every student does substantial research on their perished child’s place of birth and its Jewish community life and customs. The collected information is presented at the solemn occasion of Yom Ha-Shoah, Remembrance Day. Thanks to the Remember Us Project, these children will never be forgotten.
Study of Torah Portions
As a secular Jewish school, we do not require our students to read from the Torah as part of their celebration.
Over the course of the year, however, they become familiar with their Torah portions, analyze their meanings, and make personal decisions about whether or how they want to include the portion in their ceremony.
Students may chant in Yiddish or Hebrew, offer artistic or written interpretations, and make connections between their Torah portions and their core projects.
Music and Art
Many of our students and faculty are musicians and artists, and our b’nei mitsve celebrations always include beautiful and rousing performances.
Graduating classes have performed Yiddish and Hebrew songs, including “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu (Salaam),” “Shtil Di Nacht,” as well as American protest songs, with instrumental and voice arrangements created by their teachers.