American Jews often view the coming-of-age ceremony not as an entry to Jewish life, but as a graduation ceremony. A new initiative by the Reform movement is out to change that. Read about the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, in which Boulder’s Congregation Har HaShem is a participating, in this article by Laurie Goodstein in the NY Times from September 3, 2013:
Bar Mitzvahs Get New Look to Build Faith
LOS ANGELES — The American bar mitzvah, facing derision for Las Vegas style excess, is about to get a full makeover, but for an entirely different reason.
Families have been treating this rite of passage not as an entry to Jewish life, but as a graduation ceremony: turn 13, read from the Torah, have a party and it’s over. Many leave synagogue until they have children of their own, and many never return at all — a cycle that Jewish leaders say has been undermining organized Judaism for generations.
As Jews celebrate the new year Wednesday night, leaders in the largest branch of Judaism, the Reform movement, are starting an initiative to stop the attrition by reinventing the entire bar and bat mitzvah process.
Thirteen Reform congregations across the nation have volunteered to pilot the change, and an additional 67 are on the runway. Everything is on the table: how or whether to teach Hebrew, whether to delay the ceremony until children are older, and even whether to require children to read from the Torah — now the centerpiece of most bar mitzvah ceremonies and the culmination of years of study. Parents will most likely be expected to play a larger role and emphasis will shift from prayer to social action. …”