B’nai Mitzvah Revolution Materials
- BMR Theory of Change: an explanation of what we believe will lead to new ideas and models of b’nai mitzvah. The Theory of Change is also available as an interactive graphic.
- Visioning Exercises: exercises to do in congregational teams to come to shared vision around b’nai mitzvah.
- Adolescents and Adolescence: a recorded webinar presentation by Rabbi Bradley Solmsen.
You may be surprised to learn that bar mitzvah observances we think of as very traditional are actually quite recent. The most comprehensive piece on this topic is:
- Ivan G. Marcus, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, The Jewish Life Cycle: Rites Of Passage From Biblical To Modern Times, page 82
More than 70 years ago synagogues and Jewish educational organizations banded together to require several years of religious school before boys could celebrate their b’nai mitzvah (there were no b’not mitzvah in those days). The purpose of this policy was to increase involvement in the synagogue. But, it has had the opposite effect. Treating bar/bat mitzvah as the goal and end point of Jewish education has degraded Hebrew learning, stifled efforts to expose students to the depth and meaning of communal worship, and led to high numbers of students dropping out of religious school immediately after the “big day.”
For a thorough exploration of this phenomenon and how it came to be the status quo, see:
- Stuart Schoenfeld, “Folk Judaism, Elite Judaism, and the Role of Bar Mitzvah in the Development of the Synagogue and Jewish School in America”
- Isa Aron, “Supplementary Schooling and the Law of Unanticipated Consequences”
- Profiles of B’nai Mitzvah Experiments and Innovations
- Lifsa Schachter, “Why Bonnie and Ronnie Can’t ‘Read’ (the Siddur)”
- Lifsa Schachter, “Hebrew Through Movement for Part-Time Jewish Educational Programs” (Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz and Paula Sass, Eds.)
- HebrewThroughMovement.org A new website from the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) that supports the implementation of Hebrew Through Movement (TPR) in part–time Jewish educational settings.
- “The Hebrew Project: As We Enter 5772” A summary of the key ideas learned through “The Hebrew Project.“ This list is useful for considering changes that could better shape Hebrew and t’fillah curriculum in the pre-b’nai mitzvah years.
T’fillah and Spirituality
- Nicole Greninger, “Believing, Behaving, Belonging: Tefillah Education in the 21st Century”
- Nancy Flam, Religious Talk, Experience and Reflection: Developmental Considerations
- Rachael Kessler, The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at Schol
Changing the Culture of an Organization
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ten Reasons People Resist Change
- Peter M. Senge, The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organizations
- Michael G. Fullan and Matthew B. Miles, Getting Reform Right: What Works and What Doesn’t
- William Bridges, “It Isn’t the Changes that Do You In,” Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, page 3
- Fine, Allison, “The Networked Nonprofit Prequel.”
- Micki M. Caskey and Vincent A. Anfara, Jr., Young Adolescents’ Developmental Characteristics
- Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, Adolescents and Adolescence, recorded webinar presentation.
- Engaging Jewish Teens: A Study of New York Teens, Parents and Practitioners, from The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, funded by UJA-Federation of New York (2011)