Becoming B'nai and B’not Mitzvah is a milestone in our Jewish tradition, when a young person reaches the age of responsibility. The young person is developing the maturity to examine his/her identity in areas such as traditions, personal responsibility, social obligation, freedom, and being part of the community and the nation.
Our Bar and Bat Mitzvah program will introduce the students to Jewish law, mitzvot and values. The program helps the students to make a connection between those values and their daily choices. Students will deepen their knowledge of and connection to the Jewish tradition and Israeli culture through hands-on activities. They will:
The students learn about a wide variety of mitzvot designed to ensure the livelihood of the poor in the community, such as tzedakah, tithes and charitable donations, pe'ah leket and shichecha, and other Jewish concepts. We study Maimonides’ eight levels of charity, and learn that the highest degree of giving is to enable an individual to be self-reliant.
Project: A visit to The Ark, a social service organization. The students get to know the wide range of services the center provides to the needy Jewish population in Chicago and surrounding areas, such as a food pantry, health services, warm meals, career counseling. They also spend meaningful time volunteering at The Ark.
Students explore the idea that each of us belongs to circles that define us as individuals and part of society: 1) the individual; 2) family and friends; 3) community in its broadest sense--state, country and nation; 4) the world. They learn that relations between the various dimensions require us, at times, to take responsibility, as individuals and a community, in order to preserve connection and interdependence.
Jewish culture and teaching has always addressed these relationships, and the connection between the individual and the community is one of the most important elements in Judaism. In our Bar and Bat Mitzvah program, we learn and examine the place of the individual in these circles, and the mutual influences that the individual has on the collective. In this sense, all of Israel is responsible for one another ("Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh").
The students will complete four projects that require personal responsibility, involvement in the community, expression of opinion, and planning for the future by setting goals.
Project 1: In one project, the group volunteers in a nursing home, brightening the residents’ days with physical activity and conversations.
Project 2: For Chanukah, the Bar and Bat Mitzvah group operates educational and fun activities in which they lead, mentor, and assist students from all classes while demonstrating leadership skills and knowledge.
Project 3: On Tu Bishvat, the students present the play “The Giving Tree” in Hebrew to the entire school.
Project 4: During their visit to the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, the students learn their responsibility to be positive leaders and not bystanders. They learn about Jewish history to help them to make decisions and take action as leaders of the future.
Although everything in the world was created for us to use, we must act wisely and with sensitivity rather than with cruelty. The students learn the mitzvot of sensitivity to animals, such as sending away the mother bird before collecting eggs from a nest, allowing our animals to rest on Shabbat and not overworking them, and so on.
Project: Hosting/visiting volunteers from the Red Door Animal Shelter.
For their final project, the students will choose a topic they would like to study in depth. Recent years’ topics have included:
On the last day of the school year, a graduation ceremony is held with students, parents, board members and staff. The B’nai and B’not Mitzvot present their research projects individually. They then receive certificate of completion and a Bible, which will accompany them in the future. The students are welcome to return to school after completing their studies and join our mentoring program, in which they can act as assistants during the school year.