Today is December 7, 2023 /
By the time you are reading this, you should have your child’s b’mitzvah* date confirmed by the Education Director. This date corresponds to a parashah (Torah portion) that your child will read at their b’mitzvah. This parashah is the same reading from the Torah that takes place in every synagogue in the world on that Shabbat. As time continues, your child will become more and more familiar with what that parashah is about, as they will eventually write a d’var Torah (“word of Torah,” also called midrash, ’drash, or sermon) to teach the community on their special day. How much they will read, and how that will look on the day, will all take form over the next year.
Your child either has been or will be assigned a tutor shortly after the first meeting. This might be a Dartmouth student, a teacher from the school, or a member of our community. Tutoring should begin approximately one year prior to the b’mitzvah date. Once you have your tutor’s name, we suggest you make arrangements immediately to begin a schedule of meetings. Meeting once a week is preferred to help your child with the process of learning without feeling rushed. The wages are paid directly to the tutor—Kol Ha’Emek neither participates in nor profits from those transactions. We just make a shidduch (match).
Your family must be members in good standing of the Kol Ha’Emek congregation. Specifically, you must hold a family membership and have paid your Hebrew School tuition for the year in which the b’mitzvah takes place. After the simcha, students are expected to continue with their class until the end of the year and/or switch to Jew Crew. If you need to make contact with our treasurer for any reason, his contact information is:
There is no fee charged by the rabbi, nor for any services performed by the director of education during this time. However, there are extra costs associated with the b’mitzvah concerning the building maintenance (or transporting the Torah, lectern, siddurim, ritual items, etc. to an off-campus location) and many other details that will be handled for you. It is expected that, before the simcha date, families make a donation to Kol Ha’Emek in honor of the b’mitzvah that minimally is $400 per child.
We understand that there are many financial demands on families, and we will work with you to help ease this within our community, but we can only do so if you express concerns that you might have. Let us help to focus this day on the celebration, not the finances.
Your child’s “parsha book” will contain cantillation information they will use during to learn the Maftir (their Torah reading) as well as the Haftarah (Prophetic readings) both of which are chanted. The book will become a very useful tool during the tutoring process.
Please check the b’mitzvah calendar (see the right side menu of this page for the appropriate year) so you may see the dates of the classmates’ b’mitzvot, to make plans to attend, or to have a class list in the event that you wish to plan a party that could involve the members of the class.
We ask that you and your child attend, at minimum, five Shabbat morning services in the course of that year, and three b’mitzvah celebrations, as well. This will make the actual b’mitzvah service familiar and ease some anxiety about the experience. The more they know, the more confident they will be.
Your child will choose their b’mitzvah project that can be finished in the year that they prepare for their b’mitzvah service. You may discuss ideas for these projects with the Education Director, Rabbi, or tutor. Also, we have developed a “project bank” of past projects and other ideas.
The Education Director will monitor your child’s progress and check in with the tutor regularly up until 8 weeks before the b’mitzvah date. At that time, your child will begin to meet with the Education Director biweekly to work on the d’var Torah (speech) and with Rabbi once each week for a private tutoring/review time. These lessons will take place in the sanctuary so that your child will begin to experience what they sound like in that larger space and help ease some potential anxiety. Being familiar with the process and experiencing it in the sanctuary will make everything much more enjoyable for you and your child.
You should begin the process of deciding who will participate in reading the blessings before the Torah, opening the ark, and lifting and tying the Torah. The list of honors should include the Hebrew and English names of each honoree and should be sent to the Rabbi at least 1 week before the B’Mitzvah.
Please choose a member of the Board of Trustees to bestow your child’s gift from the congregation during the service. If you don’t know anyone on the Board and would prefer to have the Education Director or a teacher from the school do this, please let us know.
It is traditional for parents to give a blessing to the new b’mitzvah at the conclusion of the service. Sometimes a grandparent will give a blessing at the beginning of the service while bestowing the new tallit on the student. These blessings are short (no more than 2 minutes) and should be addressed to the student, not the congregation.
Planning a B’mitzvah can be challenging in the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how quickly and dramatically many things can change. Different strains present us with a range of transmissibility and different risks of severe disease. Flexibility in planning your event is crucial.
Although our sanctuary can seat up to 140 people in normal times, COVID’s requirement of social distancing between households means it can currently accommodate only 65 people total. However, b’mitzvot are also community celebrations and there are about 20 community members who regularly attend Shabbat morning services. Thus, the sanctuary can currently accommodate only 45 or so of your family and friends and so the Roth Center may not be sufficient for your needs.
Since the doors are locked, we have a system of greeting people who come for services. We welcome in folks we know personally, and those we don’t are asked who they are, their purpose in coming, and to provide a photo id. If someone from your family who knows everyone coming can help with this, that’s easiest. If not, we can provide “tickets” for you to give your guests so that we don’t have to ask them those questions.
Other options, such as function halls, backyards, or a combination of in-person at the Roth Center and Zoom may be more appropriate for your purposes. Many wonderful Kol Ha’Emek b’mitzvot have taken place in families’ backyards, at the Hulbert Outdoor Center, the Wilder Events Center, Dowds Country Inn, the Dartmouth Skiway, and the Hilton Garden Inn. Another option is to obtain permission from Dartmouth to erect a “wedding tent” on the meadow next to the Roth Center parking lot. Local tent rental companies include Blood’s Catering and Celebrate Rentals. Please note that it is the family’s responsibility to obtain permission from Dartmouth for a tent. Mentions of these businesses are not to be construed as endorsements, and Kol Ha’Emek has no relationship with any of them.
To discuss options at the Roth Center, please contact Office Manager Chris DePierro by email or phone at (603) 646-0460. The congregation’s President and Rabbi Mark will contact you to discuss your hopes for the b’mitzvah. We will periodically check in with you, our health advisors, and college/local officials prior to the event to assure your plan continues to meet COVID’s challenges and to minimize the risk of surprises as the event approaches.
The Roth Center parking lot can hold 30 cars. Your guests may park on the synagogue side Occom Ridge, on Webster Avenue or at the Dartmouth lot on Maynard Street, or at the Dewey lot near to the medical school.
No photography is allowed in the sanctuary during the service out of respect for Shabbat and to allow everyone to be fully present in the moment of the simcha. Rabbi is available for photos the day before the ceremony. We do broadcast services on Zoom and are willing to record your service if you let us know.
It’s customary for families to provide flowers to beautify the sanctuary space. Instead of flowers, you may wish to consider a bimah basket, a beautiful arrangement of food that can be donated afterwards–an act not only of beautifying the mitzvah but also of tzedakah. Contact Carolyn Gordon at Carolyn.S.Gordon@Dartmouth.edu for more information on bimah baskets.
Plenty of kippot and tallisim are available at the Roth Center for congregants and guests attending the service. Some families order personalized kippot online for a remembrance of the day.
It is also important that your child have a tallit to wear on the big day. Some have a family tallit handed down from a grand or great-grandparent. Some have one made specially for the occasion. Here is a photo of a group of cousins whose tallisim were all custom made using fabric from the neckties of their grandfather who had passed away. They were “wrapped in his love” even though he could not be there with them.
Kol Ha’Emek will provide cups and tablecloths; the family is responsible for providing challah, wine and grape juice for the kiddush after the service. Typically one needs two challahs (more if there are over 80 people), one regular sized (750 ml) bottle of Manischewitz kosher wine for every 50 wine-drinking adults, and one half gallon of kosher grape juice for every 50 juice-drinkers.
Please see the separate explanation of food policies and the Roth Center kitchen use. The caterers below will not use the Roth Center kitchen, but they are familiar with our policies and understand where their food can be placed, respecting the level of kashrut maintained in the building as well. We will not endorse or refer to any specific caterer, but do know that the following companies have worked with the Roth Center in the past.
Aroma Catering Vt. Mandy Traineanu 802-376-9552
Coventry Catering Lynn or Daniel Caple 603.252.5605
Maple Street Catering 802.296.2400
Because there is no janitorial staff on Saturday, we ask that you make arrangements to clean up after the ceremony, kiddush, and/or luncheon. Please remove all food and tablecloths. Dartmouth maintenance staff will store the tables and chairs the following day. Please designate someone to return all siddurim and chumashim to the shelves.
After the simcha
We work hard to ensure that your teen’s journey in Judaism does not end with the b’mitzvah celebration. We want and expect them to continue learning and developing their Jewish identities. There are many opportunities to do this:
*Note that we use the gender neutral term “b’mitzvah” here to be inclusive but we will use the terms bar and bat mitzvah for those who prefer that.