The Reform Movement’s B’nai Mitzvah Revolution is the widest reaching initiative ever, launched by the Movement to radically transform the entire B’nai Mitzvah experience. Earlier this month, the first set of pilot congregations participated in a weekend-long workshop with 65 professionals and lay leaders from 14 congregations including faculty and staff from Hebrew Union College’s Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) and the Union for Reform Judaism’s Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE).

The goal of the workshop was to support the congregational teams in radically rethinking their approaches to the preparation for, and celebration of, bar and bat mitzvah. Session topics focused on adolescent development, visioning, developing experiments, new approaches to congregational education, alternative approaches to teaching Hebrew, and involving the broader community.  In addition, an entire day was devoted to training one representative from each congregation in Action Research. Action Research is an approach to gathering and analyzing data done by practitioners (in this case educators and lay leaders) in order to bring about change. This project is one of the first that is committed to systematically collecting data from all of the participating synagogues to help the pilot congregations learn and to share those learnings within the Movement and throughout the broader Jewish community.

Dr. Michael Zeldin, senior national director of the Schools of Education at HUC, who attended the workshop, said, “Rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders engaged in intense conversation about how to rethink patterns that were more than 50 years in the making.  If these congregations implement even half of what they are contemplating, we will be well on our way to seriously impacting how we engage our young people.” Read what other participants said about the workshop and the future of Jewish youth engagement.

Following the workshop, each congregation will work with a facilitator to gather and analyze data from the process of planning their experiments, to be part of a support network and will commit to developing a long range plan as well as a set of experiments they will implement by the fall of 2013.

Participating congregations include:

  • Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple (Beachwood, OH)
  • Congregation Har Hashem (Boulder, CO)
  • North Shore Congregation Israel (Glencoe, IL)
  • The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution Has Begun! Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (Elkins Park, PA)
  • Stephen S. Wise Temple (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Temple Beth-El (Hillsborough, NJ)
  • Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA)
  • Temple Beth Elohim (Wellesley Hills, MA)
  • Temple Brith Achim (Kind of Prussia, PA)
  • Temple Isaiah (Lafayette, CA)
  • Temple Isaiah (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Temple Israel (Columbus, OH)
  • Temple Shalom (Dallas, TX)
  • Temple Sholom (Scotch Plains, NJ)

For more information visit urj.org/bnaimitzvah.