225 Fox Boulevard • Merrick, NY 11566 • 516-379-8650

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B'nai Mitzvah Journey

The Merrick Jewish Centre strives to involve all congregants in a warm community, reflecting the richness of our traditions, and dedicated to learning, prayer and social action. We have begun to seriously evaluate the way in which we are engaging the post bar and bat mitzvah aged young adults toward this goal. Rabbi Ravid Tilles, Rabbi Charles Klein and Morah Heléna Eilenberg have created a B’nai Mitzvah Journey Program that is designed to create positive educational Jewish experiences for the young people of the MJC. The following are the specific goals, objectives and procedures meant to best engage the youth and young adult members of our community.

Goals:

1) Provide meaningful educational and experiential opportunities for students in
Hebrew School and Hebrew High School with hopes that they will develop positive
associations with their Judaism and the shul.

2) Create opportunities for post Bar and Bat mitzvah students to be leaders and
mentors to younger students.

3) Engage parents and entire family units.

Pre-Aleph

Pre Aleph provides a wonderful base of positive Jewish experiences. From a young age we want children to feel that Judaism is fun, meaningful and important. Although there are many years between pre aleph and their B’nai Mitzvah, if the students and parents have memorable experiences they will hopefully stay with them for years to come. Currently there is about a 75% rate of enrollment to Aleph from Pre Aleph.

Objective I:
-Excite K-1 graders about Judaism
-Experience holidays and life cycles

Procedures:
-Experiential educational opportunities once a week with Morah Gail. Includes fun activities like scavenger hunts around the building and mock life cycle celebrations.
-2 special class programs including a Mitzvah day.
-Pre Aleph Shabbat service
-Shabbat Shabbang!

Objective II:
-Engage parents of young children

Procedures:
-Family Initiative: Mezuzot on the doors
-Shabbat Shabbang!
-Family dinners
-Pre Aleph Service
-PJ Library

Aleph and Bet

Aleph and Bet are the first two years of the formal Hebrew school education. These two years are crucial to developing a base knowledge of the Hebrew language and prayers that, if associated with positive Jewish experiences, can carry into future years. In many ways, these formative years represent the foundation of what will be their Jewish lives.

Objective I:
-Continue to create positive Jewish experiences.

Procedures:
-4 special class programs.
-Bet class trip to the zoo for a mitzvah project.
-Aleph Consecration

Objective II:
-Begin formal Hebrew language education – reading, writing and conversational.
-More formal education about prayers and comfort in synagogue
-Introduction to Bible stories.

Procedures:
-Two day a week Hebrew school education (formal and experiential)
-Students will use laptops to enhance Hebrew fluency.
-Enhanced Hebrew language incorporation during class
-Wednesday Tefila
-Service Requirements

Objective III:
-Engage parents

Procedures:
-Family Initiative: Shabbat dinners
-Grade services and dinners
-Shabbat Shabbang!
-CJL Service

Gimmel

During the gimmel year the students are “launched into Torah” as they begin their formal preparation for their B’nai Mitzvah. Their education will become more clearly focused on their preparation for B’nai Mitzvah in a way that will hopefully excite them for their journey.

Objective I:
-Begin the B’nai Mitzvah Journey Formally. Build up excitement for their B’nai mitzvah.

Procedures:
-In November/December there is an optional info session about the B’nai Mitzvah program.
-Parents receive a form to help determine dates.
-In spring there will be a ceremony to announce the parsha and give out packets about the parsha.

Objective II:
-Develop deeper and more sophisticated understanding of Torah stories including Midrash.
-Connect students to their individual B’nai Mitzvah Parsha

Procedures:
-Formal curriculum of Parshat Ha’Shavua (weekly Parsha).
-End of the year curriculum will focus on students beginning to learn about
their B’nai Mitzvah parsha.

Objective III:
-Strengthen fluency in Hebrew language using laptops.
-Begin to master the prayers (specifically the Friday night service).

Procedures:
-Service requirements (5 out of the 10 service requirements must be done on a Friday night)
-Continuation of Hevruta program
-Wednesday tefila
-Class services

Objective IV:
-Create connection between students and to the mitzvah of Ba’al Taschit.

Procedures:
-Formal and experiential lessons about environmental responsibility.
-Help make the MJC more environmentally responsible with recycling bins and other opportunities.

Objective V:
-Continue to engage parents, particularly around B’nai Mitzvah prep

Procedures:
-Family Initiative: Havdalah
-CJL service
-Family services
-Shabbat Shabbang
-Sunday or weekday evening programs

Dalet

In dalet the students will develop an even stronger relationship to their parsha with more intensive study. They will also begin to delve into Jewish history in order to create a foundation for their exploration into self identity in Hay and Hebrew High 7.

Objective I:
-Feel more connected to their B’nai Mitzvah parsha

Procedures:
-Families meet with Rabbi Tilles to study the student’s parsha.
-Students will prepare a creative/artistic presentation for their class about their parsha.
-Teachers will begin to include the student’s parsha with their name during attendance.
-Students and parents will be invited to participate in the “Beyond the DJ.”

Objective II:
-Continue to enhance Hebrew fluency using laptops.
-Master the Friday night service and begin to learn the Saturday morning service. 

Procedures:
-Service requirements (back to standard requirements)
-Class services
-Wednesday tefila

Objective III:
-Create deeper connection between students and Israel and Jewish history

Procedure:
-Formal and experiential educational curriculum centered around Israel and Jewish History.

Objective IV:
-Create a connection between students and the mitzvah of V’ahavta L’reyecha Kamoacha (love your neighbor as yourself)

Procedures:
-Experential and formal educational curriculum centered around V’ahavta L’reyacha kamocha.
-Mitzvah projects including: visiting the elderly, donating food or volunteering at the food pantry.

Objective V:
-Continued parent engagement

Procedures:
-Family Initiative: Build your Jewish Library
-Class services

Hay

Already by the Hay class the B’nai Mitzvah preparation is beginning to gear up. The details of their big day are beginning to take form both from logistically and emotionally. This year is focused on deepening the student’s connection to the B’nai Mitzvah experience with the hope that they will be fully prepared, not only for their ceremony but for everything that comes along with being a Jewish adult.

Objective I:
-Students will continue to explore their parsha.
-Students will commit to their mitzvah project.

Procedures:
-Presentation of special Parsha Projects which they began to prepare in dalet.
-Mitzvah Project Fair, where alumni return to present their mitzvah projects to encourage commitments to their project.
-Students and parents will be invited to participate in the “Beyond the DJ.”

Objective II:
-Develop deeper understanding of personal family history
-Build deeper connection to the Holocaust and Israel
-Begin to explore personal Jewish identity
-Connect to the Mitzvah of Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze et Ze (all of Israel is responsible for one another)

Procedures:
-Formal and experiential education curriculum around Holocaust, Israel and Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze et Ze.
-Arthur Kurzweil will present about family history
-Optional B’nai Mitzvah Israel trip (hopefully)

Objective III:
-Continue to enhance Hebrew fluency and comfort with the service.

Procedures:
-Service requirements
-Hevruta Study
-Laptop use
-Wednesday tefila
-CJL service
-Shabbat Alive – Hay class track. Students will spend part of Shabbat Alive in the main the sanctuary with an educator who helps by guiding them through the service (and ensuring proper behavior).

Objective IV:
-Continued parent engagement

Procedures:
-Family Initiative: Build a Succah
-Family services
-Special B’nai Mitzvah prep for parents

Hebrew High 7

By this time the students are deep into the B’nai Mitzvah cycle. Their friends are becoming B’nai mitzvah and they are reaching crunch time in their own preparation. Also, there are some students who have their celebration early in the year and trail off in attendance. This is a crucial year for engagement and positive experiences. We want to make sure that the students and parents feel that everything that they have
done up to this point has been worthwhile and may even be worthwhile enough to continue after B’nai Mitzvah.

Objective I:
-Begin B’nai Mitzvah preparation in earnest
-Celebrate becoming a B’nai Mitzvah
-Understand their parsha as it relates to them personally

Procedures:
-Begin to meet individually with Haftarah and prayer tutor at least 8 months in advance of B’nai Mitzvah.
-Parents and student participate in 3-4 meetings with the Rabbis

Meeting 1 – What does it mean to be a Jewish adult? How does your parsha relate to you? What questions are there about your ceremony? What are your parents' hopes for you in this process?

Meeting 2 – How is the speech coming? How is the haftarah prep coming? Further conversation about being a Jewish adult. (This will be with the alternate rabbi)

Meetings 3-4: How far along are you? What do you still need help with? What is going to happen on the actual day of? How has this process been?

Optional B’nai Mitzvah Trip to Israel

Objective II:
-Leave a positive taste in their mouth regarding Jewish education.
-Deepen their understanding of their self identity from a Jewish lens.

Procedures:
-Elective courses at Hebrew High to make sure the students are having a good time as they learn about Judaism.
-One mandatory class about self identity and Judaism taught by Rabbis Klein and Tilles and Morah Helena.

Post B’nai Mitzvah

It is our sincere hope and expectation that a more thoughtful and engaging experience from pre Aleph through Hebrew High 7 will encourage more students to stay active in Jewish life through the MJC. However, we recognize that we need to create more opportunities for the students who wish to stay engaged and intriguing opportunities for the students who may not have other wise remained engaged.

Objective I:
-Keep the students engaged through the end of High School and beyond.

Procedures:
-The new B’nai Mitzvah Big Brother Big Sister program.
-Mitzvah fair booths that the alumni set up with incentive to attract Hay students to their mitzvah project.
-MJC Honor Society.
-Improve the Hebrew High School with the help of the other rabbis and educators.
-Possible Israel trip for end of Hebrew High.
-Encouraging students to volunteer with the Hebrew School.
-Invite students back to receive an aliyah on the anniversary of their parsha.
-Youth programming.

If you have questions or comments please contact Rabbi Ravid Tilles or Morah Heléna.