November 2015

A New Approach to B’nai Mitzvah


LCHAIMThe Jewish Collaborative of San Diego (JCoSD) is a volunteer-driven synagogue that works hard to help find communal, personal and spiritual fulfillment for each of our individual members. JCoSD formed itself around the idea that spirituality is the way in which each person connects to something larger than themselves. Not everyone can connect with Judaism in a synagogue sanctuary. Many of us feel most spiritual when we are reading a book, having a great discussion, creating art, gardening, creating music or rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in community. We work hard to connect members to other members who have similar interests. We build our program and experiences in an effort to create a synagogue home for everyone.

Our B’nai Mitzvah experience has been shaped entirely by this vision. Each of our kids are different. Each of our kids have different interests, different concerns, different strengths and different challenges. No cookie cutter experience can serve the needs of all our B’nai Mitzvah. We knew that we had to create an individualized Bat/Bar Mitzvah experience for each of our students.

During our early days of concept development, we imagined what a 13 year-old Bat Mitzvah girl might want from her Bat Mitzvah. What type of experience would teach her about her tradition and herself? What type of experience would show her that there was value in being a part of a Jewish community? What type of experience would show her that Judaism is a tool that she can use to help make her life better, more meaningful?

We imagined that she was confident, smart, and social. We imagined that, as with every synagogue, we would want her to know that her Bat Mitzvah was about more than a party; that it was an honor to lead her community in prayer, to read from the Torah. At JCoSD we also want her to feel like her Bat Mitzvah was a totally unique experience, and that she created something with our help that the community will remember.

A little more than a year in, we have already celebrated a number of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. And the experiences our students created with the help of their family and community along with Rabbis Gabi and Josh were indeed totally unique. One of our students chose to forego the traditional speech and instead had his guests do a social action project right in the middle of services! Two sisters decided that they wanted to do their B’not Mitzvah together, even though they are a year apart. The service they created was a beautiful testament to their sisterly love.

Here at JCoSD we live by our vision. Judaism is a faith for all different types of Jews. And our programs and effort should reflect the differences between people. We are happy that our B’nai Mitzvah experience does just that.


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  1. As a member of JCoSD I can attest to the magic created by our community and our Rabbis. At the ripe young age of seventy I truly feel like I have found my Jewish home!!

  2. It is now many months later and we have grown since this article was written. And yet, we are still the same warm, inviting, and uniquely talented community of Jews who support one another like a family

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