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CTI Bar & Bat Mitzvah Handbook


The Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony marks becoming an adult in the Jewish community. It represents a new stage in children’s spiritual and halakhic development as Jews when they are no longer simply practicing traditions and rituals but are full-fledged adults and have all the privileges and responsibilities of the millions of Jews who passed this stage before them.  Mazal Tov!

At Congregation Tiferet Israel, we strive to work with you, the families of CTI, to make the overall process as powerful, memorable and as meaningful as possible for parents, children and all those involved. The most important thing we can do for your child is to give them positive memories of their Jewish education along with a strong footing in their Jewish heritage that will last them a lifetime.

Of course, we could not complete the journey without both the Congregation and the parents working together as a team in full support of each other. On our part, although we keep homework to a minimum, there will be extra time needed at home, and your support and encouragement will go a long way.  Making studying a priority will help make the Bar/Bat Mitzvah extra special.


CTI requires Full Membership in good standing in the Congregation for a minimum of 12 months prior to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Any departure from this requirement must be approved by the President of the Congregation in consultation with the Chair of the Education Committee.

Assigning Dates

Parents may request their preferred date by submitting it in writing to the Education Committee chair, Ritual Committee chair, and the Rabbi. Certain dates may not be available due to scheduling conflicts, and we will let you know as soon as we can. Dates should be reserved two years ahead of time, if possible. CTI requires Full Membership in good standing to be able to reserve a date.

The requested date for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah should be after the child reaches the age of 13 or 12, respectively. It is preferred if the date is as soon as possible after the Hebrew birthday, but not required.

Once the date is agreed upon you will receive a formal notification from the Rabbi.


Prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the child should have attained fundamental knowledge of Hebrew reading, Jewish history, customs, and rituals. At a minimum, he/she must have attended a Jewish day school or received instruction in a religious school for at least two years. He/she must attend Congregation Tiferet Israel’s religious school for the school year prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the individual is expected to complete his or her Hebrew studies for the balance of the school year and will be encouraged to attend continuing Jewish educational program(s).

In special situations when the Bar/Bat Mitzvah does not meet these educational requirements, the Rabbi’s approval, in consultation with the chairperson of the Education Committee, shall be necessary.

Only through experiencing the service will the child (and the child’s family) understand the significance of the event by grasping the content of the service. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child is therefore required to attend Shabbat morning services at least twice a month for 12 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. We encourage you to attend services with your child as well, to become more comfortable and to help make your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah day even more meaningful. If you wish, please bring your child’s friends and their parents as well!


The Rabbi will contact the family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah approximately 12 to 18 months before the assigned date to set up a meeting to discuss instruction and to ensure that the child has the potential to fulfill the educational requirements and properly participate in the service. At this time, the child may be required to take additional tutoring at the family’s expense to supplement the regular religious school instruction. For those children who have a stronger background in Jewish tradition, this is the time to confirm more ambitious goals than standard, e.g., reading the entire weekly portion. If the parents wish to tutor the child themselves, this is the time to raise the topic with the Rabbi and to plan for follow-on steps to ensure a successful educational outcome.

At this meeting, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee is due and payable and is not refundable. This serves to confirm the date on the shul calendar among other things.

As a member of the Congregation, the child is entitled to receive training for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service from the Rabbi.  When tutoring is required as stated above, it must be provided by a designated CTI tutor. The current list of approved tutors is listed at the end of this document and will be updated continuously as needed.

The educational responsibilities breakdown is as follows:

  • Rabbi Millner teaches Tefillah (Prayer and Services), both daily and Shabbat, and the laws of Tefillin, and works with the student to prepare a D’var Torah.
  • The tutor teaches Torah trope, Torah reading, Torah and Haftorah Berachot, and Haftorah

After meeting with the Rabbi, the parents and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student should meet with the tutor at least 12 months before the Bar Mitzvah for an assessment of the student, to discuss goals for the student and to confirm the tutoring plan for that student.

CTI supports a Women’s Tefillah option for Bat Mitzvot upon request, subject to available female leadership, in which case instruction will be comparable to Bar Mitzvah instruction, minus laws of Tefillin. Otherwise, the Bat Mitzvah standard is a D’var Torah on Shabbat morning and a Havdalah service Motzei Shabbat. In this case, tutoring by the Rabbi suffices.

In all cases, instruction should start at least 6-8 months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.  This will allow enough time if there are lapses in the schedule such as vacations, Jewish holidays, etc.  The exact timing will be confirmed by the Rabbi and the tutor at their respective initial meetings.

Please be advised that the success of a child being prepared for the service is dependent upon the parents’ ability to make sure that the child practices at home. The responsibility of the Rabbi and tutor is to guide the child and give as much support possible. If there is no practice your child will not be ready!

Mitzvah Project

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is expected to participate in a “Mitzvah Project” during the year he/she is studying his/her part. The Project should be an act of tzedakah for the community. The family should ask that a fellow congregant serves as a “Sponsor” of the child to help him/her develop a project, and to further enrich the child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. If requested, the Rabbi can help identify a Sponsor for your child.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

There are several options for the ceremony and the child’s participation in it. Please discuss these options with the Rabbi when the Rabbi contacts you approximately 12 – 18 months before the date.

Family Participation

It is a great honor to be called up to the Torah during such a celebration. It is customary to honor friends and relatives by giving them an Aliya. Aliyot may be given  to individual, halakhically Jewish men who are post Bar Mitzvah age. Please consult with the Rabbi regarding the Aliya honors, as many Shabbat Torah readings have unique requirements or customs.

If qualified male members of the family and/or friends wish to read from the Torah, they should discuss this option with the Rabbi or the tutor at the time of the initial assessment, or as soon as possible afterward.

Honors for additional Family Members, including younger siblings, are also encouraged, e.g., open or close the Ark, dress the Torah, lead certain blessings, or do English and/or Hebrew readings from the Siddur. Siblings, friends or school-age relatives who wish to lead the congregation in the chanting of the Ein Keloheinu, Aleinu, Anim Zemirot, or other appropriate prayers, are invited to do so, provided they have learned and practiced reciting the prayer beforehand.  Please discuss this with the Rabbi.

A finalized list of Honors, with the Hebrew names of family members to be honored with an Aliya, must be submitted at least two weeks in advance so that the Gabbaim will have them available. Other honors, such as, opening the ark, taking the Torah out, leading Musaf, need to also be communicated in the finalized list. Anyone wishing to include an optional blessing for others (misheberach l'acherim) that is offered after the blessing for the oleh also needs to submit the Hebrew names at least two weeks in advance.

Some families choose to prepare a printed program to be distributed at the service. The program may include a brief explanation of the parts of the service and a list of Torah readers, aliyot, and other honors. Please clear the program with the Rabbi before distributing. We can supply you with a few examples from which to work. All drafts of the program must be given to the Rabbi for review at least two weeks before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Once approved, the family is responsible for arranging for copies to be made.

Needs of the Community

As a Bar/Bat Mitzvah occurs in the context of a regular service, our goal is to balance the needs of the family and the Congregation. Members of the CTI community-at-large may need to say Kaddish, or a Mi Sheberach for the sick, or simply wish to pray. Additionally, we want to instill in our children a connection to their larger Jewish community and to the Jewish people. Therefore, some aliyot will be reserved for the Congregation, since it is quite usual that other members might have a special entitlement to an Aliya on any given Shabbat. The Rabbi and the Gabbaim have the final authority over arranging Aliyot.

Family Obligations

To be able to schedule and retain a Bar/Bat Mitzvah date, schedule tutoring, start or continue such tutoring, and to celebrate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the synagogue, you are required to stay current in all synagogue financial obligations (including membership, school tuition, tutoring fees, special assessments, and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee.)

It is the family’s responsibility to organize and meet the following obligations at their own expense:

  1. Bima Flowers -- It is customary for each family to order no more than one floral arrangement of a standard size for the Bima.
  2. Program -- optional, see above.
  3. Kipot, if desired.
  4. Candy -- to be thrown over the Bar Mitzvah Boy after he completes his Aliya. Candy must meet CTI’s kashrut standards.  (CTI's Kashrut Policy may be found here.)
  5. Kiddush or Luncheon/Dinner – It is customary for a “Seudah” (festive meal) to be shared by the community to accompany any Simcha (joyous occasion). In keeping with this tradition, each family is encouraged to sponsor the Shabbat morning Kiddush (for all invited guests as well as congregants), or Seudah Shelishit (Shabbat Third Meal), even if there is a private reception afterward.

a. Kiddush - It is customary that the family sponsor the standard kosher Tiferet Israel Kiddush for the entire congregation following Shabbat services. The congregation will provide people to help with set-up and take-down of this Kiddush. Please contact the CTI Kiddush Coordinator to plan this.

b. Luncheon/Dinner - A luncheon/dinner is more formal and may last for several hours with chairs and tables being set up. If a luncheon/dinner is planned, the family is responsible to hire staff to set up, serve, straighten up and break down the room. A fee for synagogue cleaning may also be required. Please note that any meal to be served on CTI premises or to which the Congregation is invited must follow all Congregation Tiferet Israel Kashrut standards.  (CTI's Kashrut Policy may be found here.)


Some families of Bar/Bat Mitzvah students may desire to have photographic recordings taken before and/or after the service. Our objective is to make photography possible at some level, while maintaining the desired sense of the sacredness of Shabbat and of the service.

Prior to the Shabbat, still photos may be taken of the student with family, the Rabbi, Tutor, Sefer Torah, and the Ark. This must be arranged in advance. Video may also be taken at this time. Additionally, families are welcome to take appropriate photographs a few days in advance during the dress rehearsal for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

There can be no still or video photography or recording of any kind during Shabbat and Yom Tov. However, if the service takes place on a normal weekday, still and video photography and recording are permitted.

Special Considerations

B’nai Abraham has seating for 99 people. Families anticipating that this capacity will be exceeded should raise the issue at the initial meeting so that options can be discussed.

We recognize the possibility that some families may have some special circumstances that we have not anticipated in this Handbook. Any exceptions to the policies in this Handbook will need to be approved by the Rabbi and the President.


24 Months Before: Schedule the date, to be confirmed on fee payment.

12-18 Months Before: An informational meeting with the Rabbi is held for parents to finalize their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. The Rabbi will discuss ceremony options. The family chooses another congregant to serve as a Sponsor. The Sponsor meets with the child and helps identify an appropriate Mitzvah Project. The child begins work on the Mitzvah Project. Non-refundable Bar/Bat Mitzvah fee is due.

12 Months Before: Meet with the tutor for an assessment of the student, to discuss goals for the student and to confirm the tutoring plan for the student.

6 – 8 Months Before: The child will be assigned a study schedule. The Bar Mitzvah boy’s Tefillin and Tallit should be purchased at this time. (Please consult the Rabbi before making these purchases.) Attending Friday night and/or Shabbat morning service will help your child develop a true sense of familiarity with the prayers. Make meal arrangements with CTI Kiddush Coordinator.

2 Months Before: The child should begin working on the draft of their speech with the Rabbi’s and the Sponsor’s assistance.

Two Weeks Before: Clear program (if used) and submit the honors list to the Rabbi.

Final Preparation: Dress rehearsal and possible photographs. For a Shabbat event, on the Friday prior to the celebration, everything needed for Shabbat (decorations, candies, etc.) must be at CTI by 2:00 PM.

Overview of Fees (2018)

The Bat/Bar Mitzvah fee is $613 --- while the Rabbi’s tutoring is included as a membership benefit there are miscellaneous expenses which this fee covers. As with membership dues, the ability to pay these fees should never be a barrier to having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at CTI. In such situations please contact the shul President before scheduling the date. All such inquiries will be kept strictly confidential.

Arrangements to pay for the tutoring needed for a Bar Mitzvah or Women’s Tefillah Bat Mitzvah must be made directly with the tutor. Arrangements to pay for tutoring at a site other the shul, e.g., the student’s home, for extra lessons beyond the agreed plan, or to tutor additional adults, must also be made directly with the tutor.

Kiddush sponsorship: At the time of writing the minimum is $115 for 50 people including congregants, contact Henna Tatham ( for further information, as prices are subject to change over time.

Cleaning fee: $150 (if required)

Approved CTI Tutors

Sat, May 28 2022 27 Iyyar 5782