Religion School

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

 The Bet David Religion School runs classes for various ages and levels of Hebrew/Jewish Studies knowledge. A child passing through the entire Hebrew School system will be fluent in Hebrew reading and have a good background of Progressive Judaism.

Children should enrol in the Religion School in the year in which they turned 11. The Cheder is headed up by Diane McColl.

Classes are run on Thursdays from 17.00 to 18.00 and on Shabbat mornings before the services.

If you like to learn more about the school, please contact Diane or Rabbi Schell by email:

If you want that your child studies with a private tutor in addition to /instead of our cheder programme, please contact Rabbi Schell to discuss the procedure, as early as possible. Families going this route are required to come regularly to Friday evening and Saturday morning services and to participate in the life of the congregation.

Our teacher:

Diane McColl has joined the staff of Bet David as administrator and teacher in the Cheder and the ITJ class in July 2019.  Diane recently relocated together with her mother from Durban where she was the executive director of Bet David, Durban and taught in the Temple David Hebrew School.  Diane studied Jewish Studies and Hebrew at the University of Natal and completed her MA in Ancient Jewish History at the University of the Free State.  She looks forward to meeting members of the congregation and getting to know them.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Handbook

We hope that this booklet will answer all the questions you may have about the preparation process.  It is a time of hard work and intense study for the student and planning of a happy celebration for the family.  Rabbi Adrian M Schell, Diane McColl and Glynnis Kanar are always available to answer any questions.

Throughout this process, we will offer many paths of preparation.  One of the best ways to prepare is to come regularly to Friday evening and Saturday morning services and participate. This way, the student and the family will become familiar with all the prayers and customs of a Saturday morning Shabbat service.

We expect regular attendance from our students and their families throughout the Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation months.  At services, students will have the opportunity to come up onto the bima to lead with their peers and with Rabbi Schell and our lay leaders.  This weekly practice is an invaluable component of the preparation and should begin 18 months prior to your Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

Aprox. 18 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, the student will become a learner in our cheder programme.  This weekly introduction to Judaism programme is designed for young learners and will give the students a solid foundation for their own Jewish identity.  Our teacher, Diane McColl, will contact you when it’s time to begin.  Around 6 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, students will meet with the rabbi for ten 45-minute sessions to study the content of their Torah portion and to guide the student in writing the D’var Torah.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah date must be agreed by the parents of the student with Rabbi Schell at least 12 months in advance. If your child is unlikely to reach our required standard by his/her 13th birthday, then the rabbi may recommend a later date of celebration.

Your child must have attended our Cheder on a regular basis for at least 18 months prior to the celebration of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, unless transferring from another synagogue Religion School or a pupil at one of the King David Schools. KDS pupils will be required to attend the cheder for at least 12 months.

Bet David will provide your child with the following items:

  1. Handouts specific to their Torah portion that contains all the Torah and Haftarah texts they’ll need.
  2. Weekly handouts on the subject learned in class.
  3. Two Hebrew books to learn the Hebrew alphabet
  4. A Prayer Packet containing a book of all the prayers the student needs to learn and polish for their service.

B’nai Mitzvah students should spend 20 minutes every day on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah studies.

Each student must attend Saturday morning Hebrew classes. These 30 minutes one-on-one classes are scheduled individually by our teacher with the families.

During the week of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, there will be a final family check-in with Rabbi Schell.

Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is about each student taking their place in the Jewish community as an adult.  Our goal is to help our students and their families embrace an active Jewish life that includes regular involvement as God’s partners in tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the earth). To help our students and their families embrace these practices,  each student must complete a mitzvah project that addresses issues of justice and repairing our world. Students can participate in one ongoing project or participate in a series of different opportunities.

Students should run a project that are personally meaningful and that help them connect to our society from a Jewish perspective.  Our youth workers (Kani and Debbie) and Rabbi Schell are always available to help with the project.

We ask that every family spend at least one Sunday volunteering with our Kehillah Food Collection.  Dates and further information about this meaningful way to assist Kehillah in their work can be found in the weekly Newsletter “AdKan”.


The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony marks the first time when a Jewish youth has come to a place in their Jewish learning where they can lead us in our prayers and read Torah on our behalf.  Now that they have reached the age of majority, and advanced this far in their studies, it is our congregation’s opportunity to say “amen” to their prayers.

It’s customary for Jews to wear a tallit, a prayer shawl, for morning services, especially when reading from the Torah.  Families can use the tallitot provided by the synagogue if they wish.  Most families use the opportunity of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to purchase their child’s first tallit.  We have a small selection in our gift shop and they can also be ordered online. Many people also wear a kippah, the head covering.  Again, synagogue kippot are available, but many families choose to order kippot as a gift for guests to commemorate the day.  Kippot can be worn by everybody.  Tallitot are worn only by Jews who have reached the age of majority.

The morning of your child’s service will be the first time they will officially wrap themselves in a tallit for prayer.

As we begin the Torah service, families will be invited up onto the bima to participate in the Shalshelet HaKabbalah – the Chain of Tradition.  At this special moment, we’ll pass the Torah through the generations until it is placed in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s arms.  Rabbi Schell will work with you to help you decide who to include in this ceremony.

As a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, your child will:

  1. Lead the service in partnership with the Rabbi.
  2. Read their Torah portion.
  3. Read the Haftarah portion (in English).
  4. Offer their own D’var Torah (Sermon).
  5. Lead the Kiddush and Motzi prayers after the service.

At the Friday Shabbat evening service of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the family will be invited to light Shabbat candles and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to lead the congregation in the Kiddush.

A weeks prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you must submit to Glynnis Kanar, a list of the people to be called to the bima for aliyot and other honors.  Please include all Hebrew names for the parents and student.  If you are unsure about the Hebrew names, please make an appointment to go over these with Glynnis.

Your list should include names and relationship to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student.  The first two aliyot are reserved for members of the congregation.   The parents (sometimes including older siblings) have the seventh aliyah and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah has the maftir-Aliyah (the eights reading from the Torah).  It is customary for the list to begin with friends or relatives most distantly related to the child and should proceed toward closer family relationships. If you don’t have enough people to fill all aliyot, we will select members from our regular Saturday morning minyan community.  After attending Shabbat Services for several months, on the day of your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you and your child will be familiar with many of these congregants.

Non-Jewish Parents/Grandparents – should join their family on the bima for the Shalshelet HaKabbalah – the Chain of Tradition, if they are comfortable doing so.  They will be asked to recite one of the English prayers instead of doing the traditional Aliyah to the Torah.  This is because the traditional blessing refers to being “commanded” to read and study Torah, something a non-Jewish parent/grandparent is not obligated to do.  We don’t want anyone to offer words in vain on the bima but we also want to acknowledge and publicly thank them for allowing their children to be raised Jewish.

 Other honors:
Torah Dressers – These honours can be given to Jewish adults or children.  Dressers help take everything off the Torah before the reading and help put everything back on afterwards before we put the Torah away.

Hagba’ah – Raising the Torah.  This is an honour that must be done by a Jewish adult, preferably one who has experience in raising the Torah.  The adult should be strong and comfortable lifting the Torah.  Please remember, if they drop it, we all get to fast (sun up to sun down) for forty days, so choose carefully.  If you don’t have someone, we can have a minyan regular volunteer.

Ark Opener/Closer – This can be done by adults or children, Jews or non-Jews.  


When selecting your invitation, it is good to keep in mind the religious significance of the occasion.  They may be engraved, printed, custom designed, handmade, or simply hand written.

Order your invitations well in advance. This leaves plenty of room for correction of errors.  Please be aware in the wording of invitations that the celebrant is not “Bar Mitzvahed” but rather that he/she “becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah” or “called to the Torah as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.”  Rabbi Schell or Glynnis are happy to proofread your invitations for any Hebrew that is included to ensure names are spelled correctly.

The Saturday Morning Service begins promptly at 10:00 a.m. You may also want to include an invitation to the Friday Evening Service which begins at 6:00 p.m.

The synagogue has a generic programme for services to inform both visitors and regulars about the service and details of the day.  If your family would like to have a more personalised programme on the sanctuary seats, please discuss this with Rabbi Schell or Glynnis.

We will publish a photograph, your child’s name, a little biography of your child and your names a week prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah of your child.  To include your child’s photograph and the bio, please email a headshot and the text to Glynnis one month before for inclusion in the Bulletin.  If you do not submit a photo, just your child’s name and Bar/Bat Mitzvah date will appear in the Bulletin.


On the day of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, families may take photos in the morning before the service or immediately following the service.  Photography may begin at 9:30 a.m. and must be concluded entirely by 10:00 a.m.  One photographer may take pictures from the back or the side during the service, as long as this will not disturb the service. We don’t allow smartphones to be used during the service to record the service or to take pictures. Having a recording of this special day is important to some families, so if you wish to preserve the memory on video, we encourage you to hire a professional videographer and to discuss the “how to” with Rabbi Schell.

Many families choose to provide fresh floral arrangements for the bima on the weekend of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Please contact the office with regards to times for floral delivery on the Friday preceding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  It is your responsibility to take the flowers with you after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah if you wish to keep them.

Many families choose to express their appreciation and joy by giving a donation to the synagogue.  This is an old Jewish practice that transforms one family’s blessing into a blessing for the synagogue community.  This practice of tzedakah helps set a wonderful tone for the day and gives your child a powerful example of how we really celebrate our blessings in the Jewish community. Please contact Di Edel for any further information at 011-783-7117



At both Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening service) prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and at the Shabbat morning service, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student and his/her family should wear clothing appropriate for the bimaModesty is a core value in Judaism and should be reflected in the way that you, your guests, and your child dress. Shabbat is a special time, so clothing worn at services should be special.

Boys and Men:
Suits, slacks, khakis, button downs, and sweaters are all appropriate choices.  Shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are never appropriate attire for Shabbat services.  This is a great time to discuss the difference in clothing for a party versus a sacred setting.

Girls and Women:
Suits, dresses, slacks, khakis, skirts, blouses and sweaters are all appropriate choices. Shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are never appropriate attire for Shabbat services. Skirts should be closer to the knees than to the tush (if you can’t bow for the Bar’chu, it’s definitely too short) and shoulders should be covered.  This is a great time to discuss the difference in clothing for a party versus a sacred setting. *** Girls, please remember you will be carrying a Torah.  The higher the heel, the harder the hakafah (Torah carrying).

The celebration has, for too many families, become the focal point of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience.  We have worked diligently to help your child understand the true meaning of this experience.  To that end, we are asking all parents to help your child understand the importance of inclusion and kindness on this day.

Please invite the entire Bar/Bat Mitzvah group to the celebration.  We know that not everyone’s kids hang out together on a regular basis.  We understand that your child may not want to invite everyone.  Now imagine being the parent of the one child who is left out.  Please be our partner in creating a truly inclusive, caring, and kind Bet David family and help us ensure that no child here feels left out, embarrassed, or ostracised.  Tikkun Olam begins with the invitation list. We are all responsible.

A sponsorship of the Friday night L’Chaim and the Saturday morning Brocha on the weekend of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a wonderful way to include the congregation in your celebrations. Please contact Glynnis Kanar to discuss ways to make your simcha unique.

A month before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah the family’s financial obligations to the congregation (dues & school fees) must be current, unless special arrangements are made with the Shul.  Please contact the Di Edel if you have questions about your account.


Many families may choose to enrich their experience by reading about the process of becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah and what it means.  The following is a list of books that address this life-cycle event and may be of use to you as you prepare for your child’s experience.  These are not required, they are a resource.  If you have suggestions of other books that can be added to the list, please feel free to share them with Rabbi Schell so they can be considered.


Amichai, Yehuda: The World is a Room and Other Stories, Jewish Publication Society, 1984.

Blue, Rose: The 13th Year: A Bar Mitzvah Story, Watts, 1977 (fiction).

Davis, Judith: Whose Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is This, Anyway?, St. Martin’s Griffin.

Drucker, Malka: Celebrating Life: Jewish Rites of Passage, Holiday House, 1984.

Goldin, Barbara Diamond: Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish Girl’s Coming of Age, Viking, 1995.

Kimmel, Eric A.: Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy’s Coming of Age, Viking, 1995.

Leneman, Cantor Helen (ed.): Bar/Bat Mitzvah Basics: A Practical Family Guide to Coming of Age Together, Jewish Lights.

Lewit, Jane & Ellen Epstein: The Bar-Bat Mitzvah Plan Book, Scarborough House, 1991.

Mscovitz, Patti: The Complete Bar/Bat Mitzvah Book: Everything You Need to Plan a Meaningful Celebration, Career Press.

Neusner, Jacob: Mitzvah: Basic Jewish Ideas, Rossel Books, 1981.

Provost, Gary & Gail Levine-Freidus: Good If It Goes, Bradbury Press, 1984 (fiction).

Reisfeld, Randi: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Survival Guide, Carol Publishing Group, 1992.

Sage, Linda Seifer: The Complete Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner, St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

Salkin, Rabbi Jeffrey K.: For Kids – Putting God on Your Guest List, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010.

Siegel, Danny: Tell Me a Mitzvah: Little and Big Ways to Repair the World, Kar-Ben Copies.