Bar & Bat Mitzvah 101: An Etiquette Guideline To Attending A Young Person’s Jewish Celebration

Have either you or your child recently been invited to a bar or bat mitzvah? If so, then mazel tov! You have been invited to participate in a very significant ritual in a young Jewish person’s life. If you’re lucky enough to have been invited to this momentous celebration, take some time to learn the bar and bat mitzvah 101s.

(image credit: Messianic Fellowship)

What exactly is a bar or bat mitzvah? 

A bar mitzvah occurs at age 13 for boys and a bat mitzvah occurs at age 12 for girls. It is a significant event for the entire family that has likely undergone years of preparations.

It marks this young person’s transition into adulthood, where they are now held accountable in keeping the commandments and participating in Jewish life. This is the celebration of him becoming a man and her becoming a woman.

When Receiving The Invitation

As mentioned, this is a momentous celebration and was likely planned well in advance. It is as significant as a wedding celebration to a Jewish family so do respond in like. When receiving the invitation, RSVP in a timely manner and mind the number of attendees (i.e. – don’t ask to bring extra people).

What Should You Wear?

The event will be held in a place of worship, a synagogue. While you don’t have to show up in your Sunday best, do try to dress respectfully. For boys and men, a suit and tie is appropriate. For the ladies, a tasteful party dress is fail-safe.

During the service, men may be handed a head covering (a kippah). If offered, kindly accept and wear. Unlike the prayer shawl, it is not a symbol of religious practice but merely an act of respect. Remember, you are both a guest to the family as well as to the church, so showing respect would be well appreciated.

How To Behave During The Service

At the reading of the Torah scroll, be careful to not cause undo distractions to the young person for his or her big event. Meaning: turn off any electronic devices, follow the leader (sit and stand as the crowd does and do not applaud unless everyone else does), and do not take photography unless approved to do so. The family has likely hired a professional photographer/videographer to document this event.

Here’s an extra tidbit of etiquette, do not turn your back on the Torah. It is one of the most sacred objects in Judaism and it is considered disrespectful to turn one’s back towards it.

How To Party Down

If you’ve made it this far, then you’re good to go! All that’s left to do is to drop your gift off (usually in the form of money or a charitable donation in his/her name) and to party down.

The reception usually calls for dancing, food, and fun. This is the time to let loose. Have fun with the star of the hour and be sure to wish him/her “Mazel tov!”