How the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Child Participates in the Service

The defining moment of the ceremony is the child's first aliyah, but children may also play additional roles in the service.

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Reciting a prayer: A child may offer his or her own prayer or recite a traditional one.

Saying the bar/bat mitzvah "pledge": In liberal communities, students sometimes recite a pledge to continue their Jewish education.

Leading hamotzi and kiddush: A child may lead the blessings over the bread and wine immediately following the service.

Other Issues

Although the haftarah is traditionally chanted only at the Shabbat morning service, a girl who observes her bat mitzvah on a Friday night will often chant it then. In more traditional environments, the bar mitzvah may be held on a weekday morning to give the child the opportunity to put on tefillin, or phylacteries, for the first time.

For a bat mitzvah in a traditional environment, the girl usually will have no role in the actual congregational service, but may speak to the congregation after the service is over. In a women's prayer service, she may perform most of the roles listed above.

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Michele Alperin is a freelance writer in Princeton, New Jersey. She has a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary.