Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.
— Elie Wiesel

Bar or Bat Mitzvah is not an end, or a beginning. It is a journey: a spiritual and personal rite of passage. Fig Tree will work with families to craft a meaningful and unique Bar or Bat Mitzvah year, as exceptional and multifaceted as the students themselves. 

Fig Tree B'Nai Mitzvah Program

The Fig Tree B’Nai Mitzvah Year is a values-based program that encourages students to explore what it means to take action for justice and commit to service work, within the context of Jewish text, history, ritual and culture. At Fig Tree, we believe the B’Nai Mitzvah presents a powerful opportunity for spiritual and emotional transformation, a rich rite of passage towards becoming a Jewish adult. That opportunity also comes with responsibilities (as is the case with "adulthood" in general): responsibilities to others in and outside our community, to our families, and to ourselves.

Requirements and Prerequisites

No previous Hebrew School experience is required to attend our B'Nai Mitzvah program. Yes, we know that's a bit, um, unorthodox. It is the case that the Fig Tree B'Nai Mitzvah program is intellectually and spiritually rigorous- and will certainly build on Jewish concepts introduced in earlier years of Fig Tree study. So we expect that, from time to time, students who are just joining us in 7th grade may need to be brought up to speed via additional 1:1 time with our teachers, take-home reading material, and perhaps even in-class explanation from another student. From our perspective, that's totally fine. We have faith that all of our students, new and returning alike, are motivated, curious and resilient, and we think diversity of Jewish knowledge in the classroom makes the experience better, for all. 

That said, we do have one requirement, and it is not negotiable. Students enrolled in our B'Nai Mitzvah program must be attending by choice. Students have to want to be there. We encourage families considering B'Nai Mitzvah to sit down and discuss the commitment of weekly classes, monthly service learning, and (potentially, depending on what kind of ceremony is ultimately desired) regular tutoring sessions and rabbi meetings. The B'Nai Mitzvah year is not to be taken lightly, and that is intentional. The journey, as they say, is the destination. 

How Does it Work?

Fig Tree helps students and their families design, prepare for, and realize a Bar or Bat Mitzvah experience that incorporates each student’s individuality, and reflects his or her self-defined Jewish identity. Our yearlong B’Nai Mitzvah Program is comprised of cohort-style group Judaic studies and meaningful service work, culminating in an end-of-year community celebration. In addition, we recommend independent rabbis and cantors who can design and officiate a unique B-Mitzvah ceremony, custom-designed for each student and family. 

Group Judaic Studies
B’Nai Mitzvah students will meet three weeks out of the month for group learning. Classes will follow an identity- and values-based curriculum, and feature more advanced content on Jewish holidays, ritual, culture, history and text. Themes of charity, social justice and environmental preservation will be infused throughout the year, and will tie in to monthly service work. 

Meaningful Service Work
Service work- the act of doing good for others- is a fundamentally Jewish act, according to both text and custom. (It also happens to be awesome.) We feel that this connection between service work and Jewish identity is incredibly relevant today, and establishes for our students a powerful connection to their heritage. Fig Tree has partnered with Repair the World to create meaningful service learning projects on a monthly basis, which can either stand alone or culminate in individual Mitzvah Projects.

End of Year Community Celebration
At the end of the school year, Fig Tree will host a community celebration in honor of the B’Nai Mitzvah students. This celebration is not a replacement for, or mirror of, the students’ individual Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and parties. Rather, it is an opportunity for family, friends and Fig Tree classmates to gather in community to honor and acknowledge the year of hard work and service commitment fulfilled by our B’Nai Mitzvah students.

Rabbis and Tutors
Fig Tree has carefully curated a small network of Rabbis, Cantors, and other clergy who delight in guiding young people on the journey to becoming B'Nai Mitzvah. The Rabbis we recommend run the gamut from traditional to totally alternative, and all of them are committed to honoring individual students' (and their families') visions and goals for a unique and meaningful B-Mitzvah experience. Fig Tree maintains a similar network of highly skilled independent B-Mitzvah tutors. Whether you want to learn your full Torah portion, Haftorah and trope or choreograph an interpretive dance as your D'Var Torah, there are officiants and tutors who share your passion, and we will help connect you. [Note: Officiant and tutoring contractual details are between the family and the individuals directly. Fig Tree is not affiliated with, and does not benefit from, third-party officiant or tutoring relationships.]

Preparation for a Meaningful Ceremony

Fig Tree recognizes that each student and family arrives at B’Nai Mitzvah with different goals and intentions. Our process begins with an initial planning meeting between the Bar or Bat Mitzvah candidate & parents, Fig Tree Director of B’Nai Mitzvah, and Fig Tree Executive Director. Together, we will outline goals, timeline, and a suggested tutoring plan. Following that planning session, Fig Tree can also provide referrals to local Rabbis or other officiants, and once an officiant is chosen, we are available to meet with them/her/him to confirm the plan. Regularly scheduled check points throughout the year will ensure that each B’Nai Mitzvah student is on target to meet his or her goals.

A word about Hebrew...

Some students will arrive at the B’Nai Mitzvah year with a strong foundation in Hebrew; others will be complete beginners. This is totally fine. However, if Hebrew is likely to be a featured component of the B-Mitzvah ceremony, we recommend enrollment in our yearlong Hebrew language course, which can be taken in conjunction with the B’Nai Mitzvah Program. (Families with students entering 5th or 6th grade may want to consider enrolling in Hebrew language before the B'Nai Mitzvah year.)

B'Nai Mitzvah Orientation

Early in the school year, Fig Tree will host an Orientation session for all B'Nai Mitzvah students and families. At this session, we will discuss all of the following in detail:

  • Curriculum overview for year of group Judaic studies
  • Service work: projects, dates, and what to expect
  • Mitzvah Project preparation
  • Rabbi and Tutor network and connections
  • Ceremony planning: the basics
  • End of year celebration

B'Nai Mitzvah Class for Students with Disabilities [NEW as of July 2018!]

Fig Tree is thrilled to offer our first-ever B’Nai Mitzvah class for students with disabilities. This class is taught by a trained special education teacher, and individualized to the needs of the students in the class room. Modifying the curriculum created for our standard B’Nai Mitzvah classes, the class is differentiated appropriately for students with communication, learning and executive functioning disabilities. We will provide more information in the coming weeks, and plan to host an informational conference call in the near future. Please email us directly if this interests you.