There is something special happening at Kehilla.
I was hanging around the kitchen last Shabbat afternoon. Most of the guests who had come to Langston Buddenhagen’s Bar Mitzvah had left. But there was still lots of action in the kitchen. Ten adults were chattering away, while at the same time, working diligently to clean up from the lunch that hundreds of guests had just enjoyed.
This kitchen crew was made up of the parents from Langston’s chavurah. Every Bar and Bat Mitzvah student is in a chavurah with four to six other students and their families, and they meet together once a month to share a Shabbat meal. In addition to celebrating and learning together during the months leading up to the Bar and Bat Mitzvah, the families take on the commitment to set up, serve and clean up the meal following the Saturday morning service.
As anyone who has catered a large, festive meal knows, it is quite an undertaking. These families put in hours of hard work on behalf of each other, saving the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family a good deal of money, lots of work and lots of worry.
But it looks like there is even more gained from this experience.
Langston’s Bar Mitzvah was the last of the 14 ceremonies for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah class of 2015. The sense I had, hanging around the kitchen, is that these families had been through something important together and had built bonds that would last. I had this same sense when I went upstairs and saw a bunch of those 14 new Bar and Bat Mitzvah young people hanging out, laughing and talking.
I have been to a number of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs lately, and these deep connections were evident at all of them. From the pride that the Bar and Bat Mitzvah families show while joining in the Kehilla community aliya to the Torah, to the joyful way that the students dance with that day’s celebrant after s/he has finished reading from the Torah, to the beautiful words that are shared when representatives of the chavurah present a gift to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the power of Kehilla’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah process is evident.
Synagogues all over the United States struggle to make the Bar and Bat Mitzvah process meaningful for the young person and their families. They are working diligently to make the service more than a performance or individual accomplishment, or the culmination of the young person and their families’ Jewish education and affiliation with the synagogue.
At Kehilla, we have a treasure, and many in our community don’t know about it. Talk to any of this year’s 14 Bar and Bat Mitzvah families, and you will hear just how thoughtful and meaningful the Kehilla Bar and Bat Mitzvah process is. You will understand the quality of the work done by Sandra Razieli, our Bar and Bat Mitzvah Program Director, our teachers, service leaders and musical prayer leaders.
This May, the first of this year’s 20 Bar and Bat Mitzvah services will be held. I suggest you come and join me in the sanctuary, and be inspired yourself. Or slip downstairs to the kitchen and get the whole experience.