Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs are Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies. They are the most important rites of passage in the Jewish faith. 'Bar' means 'son'; 'Bat' means 'daughter' and Mitzvah means 'of the Commandments'.

The ceremonies are held when a boy turns 13 (a Bar Mitzvah) and when a girl turns 12 (a Bat Mitzvah), however many ceremonies are now held at the age of 13. Ceremonies are held on the first Saturday (Shabbat) after the relevant birthday.

It is quite usual for the celebrations to spread out over the whole weekend, with a family gathering on the Friday evening, the ceremony on the Saturday and the party on the Sunday.

Dress Code

Men should wear a formal suit and skullcap (they will be distributed), women smart day dress (ensuring their arms are covered above the elbow and their legs above the knee) and a hat.

Invitations

Formal invitations are sent out by the parents, inviting guests to the ceremony at the synagogue, and to attend the reception afterwards at their home/venue, which can range from a festive meal to a lavish party. Guests should respond with a handwritten reply.

For less formal celebrations, invitations are often a note or postcard, or by word of mouth.

Sample wording:

Joseph and Rachel Golden are delighted to invite you
to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of their son
Simon
who will read Maftir and Haftorah
at 11 o’clock, on Saturday, 14 March 2015
The Central Synagogue, 36–40 Hallam Street, London W1
and afterwards for lunch at the Park Lane Hotel, London W1

The RSVP address is included in the bottom left corner and the dress code in the bottom right. Guests should respond with a handwritten reply. For less formal celebrations, invitations are often sent by email, note or postcard, or by word of mouth.

Conduct

Guests should arrive at the synagogue on foot (many Jews do not drive during the day on Saturdays). Men and women will often be seated separately.

While there is often singing during the ceremony, some of the service often involves standing in silence. Appropriate times to leave the room may be observed from the actions of the congregation.

Presents are given by guests but, as with a wedding, are either sent in advance or taken to the post-ceremony celebrations - never take the present along to the synagogue.

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