Helping Non-Jews Navigate the Bar Mitzvah Experience

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Most Atlanta families are welcoming non-Jewish family members and, at the very least, school and/or work friends who don’t know about much the Bar or Bat Mitzvah service. They may have never set foot in a synagogue before! Here’s are some of the best tips we’ve heard for welcoming and including non-Jews into the experience.

  • For non-Jewish relatives who you’d like to participate in the service, find out from your rabbi what they are able to do. At some synagogues they may be able to come on the bimah and perform non-Torah honors like opening or close ark doors. Explain the honor and what they will do, making sure they feel comfortable with their task.
  • Include a brief overview card in the invitation envelope for non-Jewish friends. For our easy-to-copy version, go here.
  • When out-of-towners are gathered, maybe during Shabbat dinner, talk about the service protocol and let them know what they’ll be seeing in your synagogue (the Eternal light, the ark) and customs they’ll observe (congregants wearing tallit and kippot.)
  • Make comparisons to church for those who attend: wear church attire, stand and sit when congregation does, leave electronics off or on silent. Let them know that while much of the service is in Hebrew, translations are in the prayer book and there will be English as well.
  • On the big day, enlist a friend in your congregation to help welcome newcomers and answer any questions they may have about the service or sanctuary.
  • Welcome them with warmth and let them know you’re happy to have them share in your child’s special day. Everyone feels more comfortable when they’re greeted with a smile!


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