The Day Of..



There is a great deal of preparation and study needed for a child to be comfortable on the bimah on the Shabbat of his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The educational process begins as our children commence their Jewish education and learn the alef-bet. Throughout the years of study their Hebrew reading skills improve with practice.


Each child is unique, and has his/her own talents. Because students develop the necessary skills at different speeds, the synagogue does not have a one-size-fits-all mold in which it tries to cram all children. Doing more isn’t always better. Children must feel comfortable and competent in leading the parts of the service they have prepared.


As important as it is to recognize and respect each child’s aptitude, it is equally important to make sure that students work maximally within the parameters of their capabilities. Children who can’t do more should not be forced to; those who are capable should do no less than actualize their full potential.


In recognition of the above, the Jacksonville Jewish Center has developed a comfortable framework for students of various skill levels. When students have mastered the basic elements of the service, they may pursue more advanced aspects of the liturgy. Thus, students who demonstrate proficiency in the basic prayers, are encouraged to learn the morning preliminary service, and with Hazzan Holzer’s consent, the full Friday evening liturgy, Shabbat morning Shaharit or Musaf. Once students have mastered the haftarah and its blessings, they may progress to learning one or more aliyot from the Torah. The liturgical list on p.11 indicates the basic and more advanced elements of the service that B’nei Mitzvah may learn. Once again, Hazzan Holzer will determine this course of study at his six month meeting with families.

Parents are encouraged to help out in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutoring process by monitoring their child’s daily study time. Even those parents who are not as comfortable with Hebrew text or the melodies used can be a valuable resource in the process when they sit and listen to a child practice. With modern day technology, transliteration is available for most texts that a child will be learning.



Student Name                                                           Mother                                 Father 
Telephone                                                                 B’nei Mitzvah Date 
Torah Portion                                           Humash Pg.                   Tikkun Pg. 
Haftarah Portion                                       Humash Pg.                   Tikkun Pg.               RB 
Activity Page # Date Started Date Completed
Ashrei 226 / 151
Aliyah Blessing 231 / 142
Uvenukho Yomar 232 / 154
Birkat Hamazon
Havdalah 299
Lkhu Neranena 15
Mizmor l’David 20
L’kha Dodi 21-22
Mizmor Shir 23
V’shamru 34
Kiddush 49
Shalom Aleikhem 13
Yigdal 53
Ein Keloheynu 182
Aleynu 183
Adon Olam 54 / 187
Haftarah Before 146
Haftarah After 147
Haftarah Trope
Haftarah Portion Haftarah Tracking 





Torah Tracking

Torah Trope
Torah Portion – Maftir Additional Torah Readings
Haftarah Intro.
Personal Prayer
Tallit Blessing
Shaharit – (optional)
Musaf – (optional)
Kabbalat Shabbat – (optional) 
Psukei d’Zimra – Preliminary Service ( optional)


D’var Torah


Each bar/bat mitzvah prepares a D’var Torah, an original sermonic interpretation of the week’s portion of scripture, which s/he delivers on Shabbat morning, before chanting the haftarah. Each D’var Torah is unique, reflecting a particular student’s learning, interests, style, language and personality. It provides an opportunity for each student to share a message s/he has learned from the portions and process of study. Since this D’var Torah will be given prior to the chanting of the haftarah, it is appropriate for this speech to be about the haftarah, although it can certainly include aspects of the Torah portion and personal analogies and stories as well.


Although students write their D’var Torah at home, Rabbi Tilman guides the process, helping each Bar/Bat Mitzvah develop a speech that is true to its writer, appropriate for its occasion and infused with valuable Torah. To facilitate this time, Rabbi Tilman will reach out to each family approximately three months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They are likely to be scheduled after school on weekday afternoons. Martin J. Gottlieb Day School students will not meet with Rabbi Tilman during day school hours; religious school students will not meet with Rabbi Tilman during religious school hours. Before the first meeting, students should read their haftarah in English to prepare for a conversation with Rabbi Tilman about its themes. To date, students have required between four and seven meetings to complete the study process and their speeches, depending on choice of topic and learning style. One additional meeting with Rabbi Tilman will take place after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to discuss next steps following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


Most students append a list of personal thanks to their D’var Torah, either at the beginning or at the end. In either setting brevity is essential; a Shabbat dinner or social event can often be a better occasion for lengthier, more personal expressions of gratitude.


During the weeks of preparation, most students are happy to bounce ideas and drafts off of their parents; others prefer to wait until they are comfortable with a mostly finished product. Either way, parents should support and encourage their child’s writing yet ensure that the D’var Torah represents the words and beliefs of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.



Personal Prayer


After returning the Torah to the ark, while it is still open, each Bar/Bat Mitzvah offers a brief personal prayer. Rabbi Tilman coaches students as they compose this prayer. When complete, the personal prayer should reflect the youngster’s beliefs, hopes and yearnings. Rabbi Tilman will give each student a list of questions from them to answer which will help them to ultimately formulate their personal prayer.




Parental participation includes:


  1. Offering a Parental Blessing to one’s Child

Parents will confer a blessing in English on their child shortly before the Torah service. While templates are available, we encourage parents to write their own creative prayers. This will also be covered in one of our Family Education programs. Those who choose to write their own prayer should submit the prayer to Hazzan Holzer prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend.


  1. Recitation of Torah blessings

Parents are honored with an aliyah (if they choose) during the Shabbat morning Torah service. See the appendix for directions and transliteration regarding the Hebrew blessings and the choreography involved.


  1. Recitation of the Sh’hehiyanu blessing

Parents, together with other family members, rise and recite this blessing thanking God for enabling them to reach this milestone. The sh’hehiyanu is recited after Rabbi Lubliner’s charge to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah toward the end of the service.


Parental participation includes:



  1. Offering a Parental Blessing to one’s Child

Parents will confer a blessing in English on their child shortly before the Torah service. While templates are available, we encourage parents to write their own creative prayers. This will also be covered in one of our Family Education programs. Those who choose to write their own prayer should submit the prayer to Hazzan Holzer prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend.


  1. Recitation of Torah blessings

Parents are honored with an aliyah (if they choose) during the Shabbat morning Torah service. See the appendix for directions and transliteration regarding the Hebrew blessings and the choreography involved.


  1. Recitation of the Sh’hehiyanu blessing

Parents, together with other family members, rise and recite this blessing thanking God for enabling them to reach this milestone. The sh’hehiyanu is recited after Rabbi Lubliner’s charge to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah toward the end of the service.


Parental participation may include:




Events Preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Weekend


Family B’nei Mitzvah Education Program

Participation in the program by parents is expected and mandatory. We thank you in advance for             participating in this meaningful and worthwhile program.

Shabbat Afternoon Services

Seudah Shlishith, the traditional third Sabbath meal, is held every Saturday afternoon following the minha service. The week prior to the event, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah participates in the afternoon and evening services before and after seudah shlishith. Aliyot and/or other honors will be afforded family members if available (see “Honors” section). Parents, other relatives, or friends of the family are encouraged to sponsor the seudah shlishith meal in honor of the upcoming simha.


Thursday Morning Shaharit

During the Thursday morning service, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be called to the Torah. Aliyot and/or other honors will be offered to family members if available (see “Honors” section). Photography and videography are permitted at the Thursday morning service, so long as such is not disruptive of worship.


Friday Evening Services

Hazzan Holzer will notify families regarding Friday evening service times, which vary from season to season. This is a traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service. The siddur presentation on Friday evening is made by a representative of the Board of Directors (maximum 5 minutes). One may request a specific member of the Center Board of Directors or Center professional staff. There are also Sisterhood and Men’s Club presentations (a pair of candlesticks and kiddush cup respectively during Friday evening services (maximum 2 minutes each), as well as a brief presentation from a member of Kadima, our junior high youth group.


Presenters are asked to stay within their respective time allotments in order to conclude the service in a punctual fashion. Because they are made in front of the entire congregation, these presentations should communicate an appropriate spiritual message in a warm and personal way. Messages lacking religious content, e.g., accolades of a child’s scholastic and academic achievements or personal story-telling about the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and/or other members of the family, are better suited to a gathering of family and invited guests such as the Shabbat dinner following services or at the party itself.





There are various honors that may be distributed among family members and friends. Because of their intrinsic meaning as specifically Jewish rituals, some honors during the service may be assigned only to those of the Jewish faith (Please see “Note to Interfaith Couples” below”). In addition, certain honors are limited to those above the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, while still other honors are reserved for those of kohen or levi lineage. The Ritual Director will explain the parameters governing the assignment of such.


Available honors for Jewish family and friends include: aliyot (being called to the Torah to recite a Hebrew blessing before and after a portion of Scripture is read); the opening and closing of the ark; hagbah (the act of lifting the Torah – must be physically able to raise a Torah scroll above his/her head); gelilah (the act of “dressing” the Torah); various English readings on Friday night and Shabbat morning


If you have family members who are capable of reading Torah or would like to learn, it is vital to contact Hazzan Holzer sooner rather than later. Those who would serve as Torah readers at services do so on behalf of the entire congregation – out of respect for congregational decorum and the sanctity of this task, reasonable fluency is a pre-requisite. Hazzan Holzer will screen invited Torah readers for proficiency at least one month in advance of the event.

Please make sure family members and friends who receive honors clearly understand their respective roles. Appendices B & C offer ritual directions about various parts of the service. We urge that you be sensitive to those whom you wish to honor by helping them prepare properly.


Note to Interfaith Couples


As a synagogue we commend interfaith couples who raise their children as Jews, and are sensitive to the unique challenges of parenting a child in a religion different than one’s own. We encourage both Jewish and non-Jewish spouses to participate in all parent meetings and programs of family education, and to attend services together. It is particularly vital for those of another faith than their children to better understand Jewish teachings and the significance of Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a life cycle event.


We invite the non-Jewish parent to participate with his/her spouse in an English language parental blessing conferred upon the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and to stand on the bimah with other family members at various points during the service. During the service all family members – regardless of religious affiliation – are invited to stand for the recitation of the sh’hehiyanu, a blessing that thanks God for “granting us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this day.” In addition, non-Jewish family and friends may lead Prayer for our Country in English on Shabbat morning, or one of several English readings at the Friday evening service. Our clergy is also available to advise non-Jewish parents and grandparents about a variety of creative ways to lend additional spiritual significance to the celebration of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah outside the formal service.





Note To Divorced Parents


The focus of Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the child and his/her achievements. Parents who are separated or divorced must bear this in mind at all stages of planning the event. Divorce may end a spousal relationship; it does not sever a child’s emotional ties to his/her parents. The more difficult the divorce, the more vital it is for parents to set aside their feelings as the child approaches Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


It is the synagogue’s presumption that parents understand this, and consequently are committed to acting as partners in the planning of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This partnership should include all aspects of decision-making as well as the distribution of ritual honors and participation in the event.


The synagogue is neither equipped nor able to mediate disagreements between divorced parents. The Jacksonville Jewish Center’s only legitimate interest is the well-being of its youngsters. In extreme circumstances should parental disputes become so embittered as to threaten the emotional health of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah child, the synagogue reserves the right to postpone or cancel the event.






B’nei Mitzvah are celebrated in the context of the larger synagogue community. The Shabbat morning service is a vital component of Jewish life; your family’s simha is a joyous addition to the morning. The following information will not only help you and your family enjoy the event, but will also enhance the dignity and decorum of the day. To assist you in the task of informing friends and family about synagogue etiquette and sparing them potential embarrassment, cards are available in the synagogue office with information about decorum and the parameters of Shabbat observance on the one side, and travel directions to the Center on the other. We strongly recommend you enclose these cards with your invitations.


  • Please ensure that your immediate family arrives on time. Services begin promptly at 9:00 AM on Shabbat mornings.


  • This joyous event provides ample opportunity to celebrate with family and friends . . . after the service. Greeting relatives during the service disrupts the decorum of communal worship


  • Every male, regardless of religion, must wear a kippah while at services. All Jewish males above the age of thirteen should wear a tallit. Non-Jewish guests do not wear a tallit.


  • Out of respect for the sanctity of Shabbat and one’s presence in a House of God, worshippers should wear clothing reflective of the occasion’s dignity. Women, including the Bat Mitzvah, should wear a dress or skirt of respectable length. Shoulders should be covered (no sleeveless tops), while very low cut blouses are inappropriate forms of clothing for worship. Jeans are not appropriate dress in Synagogue. Ushers may ask improperly attired guests to don a synagogue owned shawl or sweater for the duration of the service.


  • In keeping with a traditional understanding of Jewish law, no audio-taping, videography, or picture taking is permitted in the synagogue or on the grounds during Shabbat. Have your photographer make arrangements with Administrator Lori Schoettler regarding times allowed. Please remind family and friends of this policy. If weekday sanctuary pictures are desired, arrangements must be made with Lori Schoettler. Please note picture-taking and videography are permissible at the Thursday morning service as long as they do not disrupt the flow of worship.



  • The Jacksonville Jewish Center welcomes adults and children, While we ask that parents exercise reasonable discretion in removing genuinely disruptive children, we do want our youngest visitors to feel at home in our synagogue. Parents may choose to bring a quiet toy or two or a picture book for the amusement of their children (because Jewish Law prohibits writing on the Sabbath, we ask that youngsters not use crayons or pencils, please). There are also two boxes of sanctuary-appropriate toys available near each side entry into the Main Sanctuary, provided courtesy of our Sisterhood – your children are invited to enjoy their use.


  • For those who prefer, babysitting is also available from 9:30 until 12:30 most Shabbat mornings; while children are invited to attend any of our youth services: Gan Shabbat for those of pre-school age which begins at approximately 11:00 AM – NOTE: children at Gan Shabbat must be accompanied by an adult, and Camp Shabbat for those in Kindergarten through fifth grade which begins at 10:30 AM). Please apprise your out-of-town family and friends with children of the various options at their disposal.


  • Discourage your guests, family and friends from bringing gifts to the synagogue on Shabbat. Gifts can be exchanged at another time.


  • Smoking is prohibited on Shabbat in the building as well as the grounds. The use of the synagogues telephones or personal cellular phones, cameras, or other electric devices is prohibited on Shabbat. We appreciate your help in ensuring the sanctity of the Sabbath and of the sacred space of our synagogue.




In his book, Putting God on the Guest List, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin tells a story about a friend planning his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. When a caterer asked about the theme of the party, the rabbi’s acquaintance answered, “How about Judaism?”


If you keep kosher and observe Shabbat, you will take it for granted that these practices will be integral to the reception. Yet even if one does not regularly observe these mitzvot, it is certainly not hypocritical for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah party to be kosher and in keeping with the spirit of Shabbat! Planning the event in sync with Judaism makes a statement that this celebration is not just another party, but instead a moment of religious significance; it demonstrates a commitment to celebrate what is a religious event by any definition in a manner reflective of Jewish principles. The value of making this powerful spiritual statement to oneself and one’s child is well worth considering. In addition, a decision to hold a celebration at the Center supports the synagogue through the catering revenue it generates. In sum, when families utilize the synagogue as the venue for their simha, they strengthen the fabric of our Jewish communal life in many different ways.


Of course, it also helps that we are blessed with a superb facility and an outstanding staff, capable of handling everything from an intimate Shabbat dinner for thirty to an elaborate function for several hundred guests. Margo’s Catering, the exclusive caterer of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, enhances any simha with a singular combination of good taste, creativity and a genuine desire to make one’s celebration a truly memorable event.   In so many ways the synagogue is an extension of home; there is special warmth that comes from sharing this important moment with loved ones at the Center that no other venue can offer.


Please note that Center policy precludes synagogue professionals from attending b’nei mitzvah held elsewhere before the conclusion of Shabbat, and/or events at which non-kosher meat or seafood is served.


A typical Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekend includes a Friday night Shabbat dinner, a Shabbat morning kiddush or luncheon, and a Saturday night or Sunday party. In planning for these events at the Center, arrangements must be coordinated among the following:


  • Synagogue Administrator, Lori Schoettler, discusses room availability and associated charges relative to the anticipated number of guests and party plans. Once a family’s needs have been ascertained and confirmed, the rooms are reserved on the calendar. Lori Schoettler will also review all contracts negotiated with the synagogue involving deposits. The Center requires a refundable deposit to be applied to breakage or damage that may occur during the weekend of the celebration. Please note that as a host the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family is ultimately responsible for the actions of its guests. All checks, including those for catering, should be made payable to the Jacksonville Jewish Center.


  • Hazzan Holzer furnishes family with information regarding the earliest time after Shabbat at which parties may start. Saturday night affairs can begin shortly after the conclusion of Shabbat. Please note that this time changes from week to week. Hazzan Holzer also checks invitations before they are mailed to ensure they reflect the correct start time.


  • Margo’s Catering works within the Center’s administrative and religious policies to create menus and culinary themes reflective of family ideas, number of guests, time of day etc.



Shabbat Kiddush


A child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah is always a joyous moment in our community’s life. Accordingly, families are required to sponsor a basic kiddush in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah with cookies and punch for all members of the congregation. We will then be able furnish families and Margo’s Catering an accurate number of regular worshippers in addition to a family’s guests to ensure sufficient food for all in attendance. Families may sponsor a more elaborate kiddush luncheon with a variety of buffet-style offerings for congregants and invited guests.



Invitations to Classmates


We’re all familiar with the great sage Hillel’s saying, “What is hateful unto you, do not do unto others.” If your son or daughter was ever left out of a party that everyone else attended, then you already know how miserable it is to be an outsider. Planning a joyous celebration should not be the cause of another youngster’s hurt feelings. We strongly encourage you to invite to any party all students in both the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, who are in the same school grade as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child. Lists are available through Hazzan Holzer. Please make sure you get updated lists before mailing invitations. This is a great opportunity to teach your child menschlichkeit and kindness by way of example!





Flowers should be discussed with Administrator Lori Schoettler. Please keep in mind that they cannot obstruct access to the bimah or the congregation’s view of it. Florists must coordinate with the Assistant Administrator to ensure delivery before Shabbat.






The Mishnah teaches in the name of Rabbi Elazar of Bartota, “Give God what is God’s, for you and yours are God’s” (Avot 3:8). This dictum reminds us that whatever we receive in life is a gift. As children of a beneficent God we are commanded to share with those who are less fortunate. It is essential we teach our offspring this lesson as well.


Parents can teach the lesson of tzedakah by setting an example and giving to a worthy organization in honor of their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Choosing to create non-perishable food basket (or baby care items, children’s books etc.) centerpieces for donation instead of or in addition to purchasing flowers is one way to connect the celebration to the concept of tzedakah. Another idea is to contribute to our local “Feed a Needy Neighbor” (FANN) food pantry sponsored under the auspices of Jewish Family and Community Services, or to MAZON, an organization that fights hunger.   MAZON suggests a contribution to feed the hungry equal to 3% of the reception’s cost. It can also provide you with literature and place cards for your celebration to promote awareness of its worthy aims. For more information write or log-on to MAZON’s website:



1990 South Bundy Drive, Suite 260

Los Angeles, California 90025-5232



B’nai Tzedek


The B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program is presented by the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville and the Gottlieb Family Philanthropic Fund. As a child becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, he or she begins to assume new responsibilities as a member of the Jewish community. One of those additional responsibilities is tzedakah (charity) or caring for the needy in the community. B’nai Tzedek is one opportunity to teach children about tzedakah.


Children living in Northeast Florida are invited to establish a B’nai Tzedek Fund in their own name with a minimum contribution of $125 to the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida. Checks should be made payable to “(Child’s Name) B’nai Tzedek Fund.” Your contribution will be matched by contributions of $125 from the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville and $250 from the Gottlieb Family Philanthropic Fund for a total starting balance of $500. We encourage you and your child to add additional monies to the Fund at any time and in any amount and to ask friends and loved ones to contribute to the Fund to commemorate special occasions.


Every year for 20 years, all B’nai Tzedek participants are able to recommend that a contribution be made to any Jewish charitable 501(c)(3) organization of their choice in the Northeast Florida area. The amount of the contribution will be 5% of the fund balance as of the anniversary of the Fund (minimum $25). The Fund will be professionally invested and managed with the Jewish Foundation’s other funds. There will be a 1% annual administrative fee.

After 20 years, the Fund will be converted to a permanent Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Northeast Florida in the name of the original B’nai Tzedek donor. It must meet the minimum balance required by the Jewish Foundation of Northeast Florida and will be regulated by the then current bylaws of the Jewish Foundation. All questions and comments should be directed to the Executive Director at (904) 394-0720 or by emailing


The Children of the Holocaust


The Children of the Holocaust Program was established to link Bar/Bat Mitzvah children with one of the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered by the Nazis before being able to fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. You can dedicate your Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony to the memory of this child, thereby symbolizing the importance of remembering the past while educating for the future. You will receive a certificate commemorating your participation in the program. To participate, contact the Jewish Community Foundation of Northeast Florida at (904) 394-0720 or by emailing



Joan Levin Gift of Israel


The Joan Levin Gift of Israel helps families give their children the gift of a trip to Israel, surely one of the most important and formative of Jewish experiences. Administered by the Jacksonville Jewish Federation, parents of B’nei Mitzvah open a special savings account and deposit $175 per annum for a minimum of four years toward the cost of an Israel trip. Federation then provides an annual dollar match up to a maximum of $700 by the end of four years. The total of $1,400 may be used anytime before an individual’s 24th birthday toward the cost of any trip to Israel sponsored by Federation or myriad other Jewish organizations, including the Conservative Movement’s own USY Pilgrimage, Ramah Israel, Nativ, or USY High in Israel.


Families may also choose to deposit additional money to the account. Those who do not utilize their funds for Israel travel may withdraw the money at any time without penalty, but do forfeit the matching Federation grant in its entirety. For more information about the Joan Levin Gift of Israel, contact the Jacksonville Jewish Federation directly at (904) 448-5000.


Other Twinning Opportunities


Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program For Children With Special Needs In Israel.

The bar/bat mitzvah program for children with special needs in Israel is the joint project of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel and the Cantors Assembly. This program enables American b’nai mitzvah to twin with Israeli children with special needs. The bar/bat mitzvah for the Special Child program annually prepares over 300 Israeli children with special needs for their bar or bat mitzvah ceremony. Since 1995, the Masorti Movement has been running Israel’s only national bar/bat mitzvah program, which reaches out systematically to children with special needs in Israeli schools. Originally starting in one school, today the program operates in forty schools, hospitals and institutions throughout Israel.

The program works with youth with special needs who would not otherwise benefit from Jewish enrichment classes, and provides an opportunity for them to be called up to the Torah. Participants include children with a variety of special needs, including those with Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, hearing impairments, ADD, ADHD and other behavioral challenges, autism, and blindness. No one is turned away on the basis of the severity of his or her disability. About one third of the participants are new immigrants.


For information, contact the Masorti Foundation at 212-870-2216




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