DIY bat and bar mitzvahs

For secular Jewish families outside the New York City area, The City Congregation offers a modified do-it-yourself version of our secular bat and bar mitzvah program. We will provide you with all the material used by our students and mentors, plus free guidance on how to use them from our program director.

In a secular bar or bat mitzvah, students take responsibility for designing their own course of study within the framework our program provides. They learn to defend their choices and opinions in a community of caring but demanding adults, including their parents and mentor, and any other adults you may choose to be involved in your child’s preparation.

There is no Torah portion. For Humanistic Jews, the Torah is one part of a vast heritage of Jewish literature that stretches from biblical times to the present day. However, students are welcome to investigate any component of ancient or modern Jewish literature and to examine it critically as part of their studies.

diy secular bar and bat mitzvahs at the city congregation

Our package includes:

L’Dor V’Dor From Generation to Generation: A Program Guide for a Cultural, Secular and Humanistic Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the centerpiece of these materials. This manual details the eight steps that comprise our program and gives very detailed background information and instructions for each assignment. Resources and appendices are included that provide guidance through every step of the program. Included you will find:

  • One chapter describing each step and assignment: Family History; Family and Personal Values; Personal Beliefs; Heroes/Role Models; Community Service; Major Project; Reflections on My Bar/Bat Mitzvah
  • A list of 60 Jewish values
  • A list of almost 200 heroes and role models in 22 categories
  • Community service opportunities (NY area only)
  • Over 100 ideas for major projects
  • Instructions on how to create a candle lighting ceremony; blessings for the end of the service; how to rehearse; how to set up the service booklet; music choices

The City Congregation Bar/Bat Mitzvah Mentor Guide, which will be useful even if a parent plans to be the mentor. The guide describes:

  • The role of the mentor
  • How to break down each of the eight steps
  • How to guide the student to think more deeply
  • How to edit student work
  • What to do if problems arise

Also included is a sample service illustrating one example of the end product. Because the program has a great deal of flexibility and individual choice, what you see in this sample is only a selection from a larger pool of reading and music options.

Additionally, sheet music will be provided for the songs you select, and three customer service calls of up to 30 minutes are included. Should you be interested in having your child work with an experienced mentor via phone, email or Skype, it could be arranged for an additional hourly rate.

The cost for this package is $500 ($200 is tax deductible). If you are only interested in the preparation materials, they can be purchased for $400; the service sample and music for $100.

Students work with motivated adults

Each student is individually guided through the bar or bat mitzvah process by an adult. The mentor can be a parent, relative, teacher, family friend, or coach, anyone who is invested in helping the student navigate this journey of self-discovery. The mentor encourages the student to think more deeply about each element of the program. Individual attention helps the student set goals and meet deadlines.

Our secular bar and bat mitzvah program asks students to do in-depth research and writing in four subject categories that prepare them to take on the responsibilities of adulthood in the Jewish community: family history and family values; personal beliefs; heroes and role models; and a Jewish topic of their own choosing that they will make the theme of a major presentation to their guests. Additionally, students learn by doing through community service and engagement in Jewish cultural activities.

Read more details about the four subject categories.

Contact Isabel Kaplan, program director, to initiate your child’s secular DIY bat or bar mitzvah!

Contact Isabel now!Read presentation papers by our bar and bat mitzvah students.

Understanding what we say and saying what we mean

diy bat mitzvah

Many of us in our own bar mitzvahs or bat mitzvahs read the Hebrew words of the liturgy without knowing what they meant. That practice is inconsistent with our commitment to saying what we believe and believing what we say. Our students learn a few Hebrew phrases and concepts but mostly address their audience in English unless they are already bilingual.

Should you purchase our materials you will receive the same detailed guide that all of our local students use to prepare for their ceremonies, a guide for mentors, a sample service and options for music selections. Of course, you can add or subtract from our guidelines as it suits your unique situation. For an additional fee, to be arranged independently, one of our experienced mentors can work with your child by phone or video chat. Please email us at or call (212) 213-1002 for more information about the independent bar and bat mitzvah program.