Kabbalat Mitzvah

At Beth Emet, we emphasize and value the child’s preparation and subsequent involvement in Jewish life as much as we focus on creating a very meaningful experience on the day of the Kabbalat Mitzvah.

Our young congregants work directly with our Rabbis and Cantor, as well as with tutors, congregants, and our Directors of Lifelong Learning and Director of Youth Engagement to prepare for this rite of passage marking the time when a child assumes the religious responsibilities of adulthood.

They are given opportunities to perfect their prayer and Torah reading skills, as well as to ask questions, which lead to meaningful discussions.

During the service, the students demonstrate knowledge of Jewish tradition and lead Shabbat morning worship before family and community. As part of their preparation for Kabbalat Mitzvah, teens also complete a Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving-kindness) project.

For more information, please contact the office at 847-869-4230.


Kabbalat Mitzvah Preparations

Our Kabbalat Mitzvah students are well prepared for their big day. Preparation includes:

  • Torah study
  • On-going study in our Beit Sefer or local Day Schools
  • In-depth study of the Torah portion corresponding to the Kabbalat Mitzvah date and the preparation of a D’var Torah with our Director of Lifelong learning or a congregant
  • Avodah: Worship and ritual practice
  • Six months of preparation for reading Torah and Haftorah with a Beth Emet tutor and cantor
  • Family sessions with the rabbi
  • Attendance at 12 Shabbat services
  • Gemilut Chasadim (actions of loving kindness) project with guidance from our Director of Youth Engagement Deeds of loving-kindness
  • Volunteer hours in our synagogue and the community beyond
  • Kabbalat Mitzvah Shabbaton for students and their parents

Kabbalat Mitzvah – A Brief History

“Reform Judaism was founded on the principle that Jewish practice and customs need to adapt and change so that our tradition can guide us today, and always, to serve God by living with righteousness and compassion.

This includes how we use language to talk about our Jewish faith. The commonly used term in the Jewish world for those who come of age is B’nai Mitzvah (plural), Bar Mitzvah (masculine singular), and Bat Mitzvah (feminine singular). These terms refer to those who are accepting responsibility for the sacred obligations of the Jewish people.

At Beth Emet, we have adopted the non-gendered term Kabbalat Mitzvah in order to have an inclusive term for all of our young adults. Kabbalat Mitzvah literally means the acceptance (kabbalah) of the sacred obligations (mitzvot) of the Jewish people.

Traditionally, the age when we recognize children as becoming Jewish adults is 12 for girls and 13 for boys. In the Reform Movement, we recognize 13 as the age at which all children, regardless of gender, take responsibility for their Jewish lives. This is an age when one’s identity is still in the process of formation. Kabbalat Mitzvah captures the essence of this transitional moment without reference to gender.

As societal and communal norms and conventions change, language adapts as well. Moreover, the words we use do not merely reflect our experiences but shape the way we understand the world. The term Kabbalat Mitzvah both reflects our broader understanding of gender and invites us to celebrate, embrace, and honor all of our young people as they come of age in the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Andrea London

FAQs

Kabbalat Mitzvah refers to the ceremony, not the person. One does not become Kabbalat Mitzvah, but instead celebrates Kabbalat Mitzvah. The wording of an invitation might read: “Please join us at Sam’s Kabbalat Mitzvah.” “We invite you to Alex’s Kabbalat Mitzvah.”

“We are delighted to celebrate Jordan’s Kabbalat Mitzvah.” There is no plural for Kabbalat Mitzvah so a double Kabbalat Mitzvah invitation might read, “You are invited to Jenny and Max’s Kabbalat Mitzvah.”


At Beth Emet we will use the new language when discussing this life-cycle event, but if you prefer to use the traditional terms, you are welcome to do so. We know that change is hard and new terminology can be awkward.

The correct way to use the traditional language is to say one becomes bar or bat mitzvah; one doesn’t get Bar or Bat Mitzvahed.


Other congregations are also deciding what language works best for them. There’s no universally agreed upon term. Just as baby naming services for girls have various names (e.g., Brit Bat, Simchat Bat, etc.) there might not be one term that will be used by everyone; each community will have to decide what best reflects its culture.

We have consulted with Keshet, a national organization working with the Jewish community on inclusion for LGBTQ individuals, and they like our term and have suggested they will let other communities know about it.


No. We prepare students individually and tailor our teaching and expectations based on their capabilities.

Our goal at Beth Emet is to have every student do their personal best and shine on the day they ascend the bima and take their place as an adult in the Jewish community.