Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community

FAQs for B’nai Mitzvah Parents

The following are a list of frequently asked questions by families who are planning to celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In addition to reviewing this document please review the Kol Ami B’nai Mitzvah Policy and Expectations and several related documents referred to within the FAQs. Please feel free to contact the Children and Family Program Committee chairperson and other Kol Ami families who have previously celebrated a Bar or Bat Mitzvah for more information.

Q:   How do we set the date?

A:   When your child enters 6th grade or approximately a year or so prior to your desired date, talk with the rabbi to secure a date for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. If you want to reserve the UUCA sanctuary and/or Fellowship Hall (room across from the sanctuary) prior to locking in a date, contact the Kol Ami Administrative Director who will in turn contact the UUCA. Once you are certain that your spiritual leader and the UUCA are available, advise the current Ritual Committee chairperson so your celebration can be added to the Kol Ami master schedule.

Q:  How to work with the UUCA?  

A:  Once you’re selected a date and secured the UUCA, you will be asked to sign an agreement with the UUCA for use of the facility. This agreement will be sent to you directly from the UUCA Administrative and Events Coordinator (Annie Parker ). It is important that you and your guests understand the guidelines for use of the UUCA facilities. It is particularly important for you and your guests to supervise any children in attendance at any time. Children are not permitted in the sanctuary (or other room the service is held in) after the service has ended, in the choir loft or downstairs. If you have a number of young children in attendance you may want to consider renting a separate room for children and providing a sitter for them.

Q: If we will use the UUCA for our service and celebration, what are the details, fee, timing?

A: The current fee is $300 for rental of the Sanctuary, $600 for rental of the Fellowship Hall (other rooms have different costs) and $300 for up to six hours of the event coordinator’s time, $150 if an additional AV staff person is needed plus a security deposit. The UUCA event coordinator is required by UUCA. The event coordinator is invaluable to you and your family. The event coordinator must be present at both the rehearsal and during the entire service and celebration and will be your onsite contact person regarding event logistics prior to and the day of the event. They help with sound system, rehearsal, room setup, etc. and just assuring that things go smoothly. Do keep in mind, as noted above, this person is not responsible for looking after young children any time during your event. If you use the event coordinator more than 6 hours, you will be charged an additional $30/hour and this will come out of the security deposit. If you are within the 6 hours and there has been no damage, you will have the entire security deposit returned.

Q: What is the best way for my family to communicate with the Kol Ami community to invite them to our service and celebration? How many people can we expect?

A: Most families have used a simple e-mail which they’ve sent to the community several times leading up to the event. This helps inform community members of your event and allows you to get RSVPs. You are welcome to use an evite program if you want. For samples of what other families have sent out, contact families who have had celebrations in the recent past. It’s best to send a first announcement out about 4-5 weeks prior to the event and then one or two others leading up. Keep in mind people are not great about RSVPing. If past experience is any indicator you can expect somewhere between 25-35 people from the Kol Ami Community to join you at your service and celebration.

Q: Can we request specifics about how we want the UUCA sanctuary and Fellowship Hall set up for the service and celebration?

A: Yes. There are a few changes which can be done in the sanctuary. You can request that the first few rows of chairs be removed to allow for the service elements to be on the same level as the seating. The service elements can also be placed on the bimah (elevated section) and seats left in place. The Fellowship Hall can be set up to the specifications of the family with buffet tables, tables for seating based on desired set up, number of attendees, etc. These details should be discussed with your UUCA event coordinator prior to the event at your rehearsal or before.

Q: Are we responsible for securing hosts for the B’nai Mitzvah service from the community?

A: See the Securing Shabbat Hosts for B’nai Mitzvahs and Responsibilities of Shabbat Hosts (on Kol Ami website).

Q:  Who provides the challah and the wine/grape juice and set up for this aspect of the celebration?

A: The family celebrating the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is responsible for the purchasing sufficient challah and wine and grape juice for the celebration. They also must provide the paper goods and other supplies. These supplies, other than tablecloths, are not to be taken from the Kol Ami closet/supplies. If, due to an emergency, you use some of the Kol Ami supplies, please purchase replacements and make sure these get into our closet space. See Securing Shabbat Hosts for B’nai Mitzvahs and Responsibilities of Shabbat Hosts (on Kol Ami website) for more details.

Q: What is the policy regarding use of Kol Ami supplies kept in the closet at the UUCA for B’nai Mitzvahs?

A: Families can use the tablecloths Kol Ami stocks in the closet.

Q: What is the Kol Ami Kashrut policy and does it need to be followed for B’nai Mitzvah celebrations?

A: Food brought to a Kol Ami event should be vegetarian/dairy or pareve (i.e., foods which are neither dairy nor meat such as vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.). Any foods that may be an issue with vegetarians (e.g., fish) should be clearly marked so people can make informed choices. Kashrut is determined by ingredients and a hechsher by a rabbinic authority is not required.  We do not require food to be prepared in kosher dishes. Folks in our community who are concerned about these issues should determine which food dishes were prepared by those of similar kashrut observance level and then restrict themselves to those food

Q:  Does my child need to attend JCEP?

Attendance at JCEP is not a requirement for having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Kol Ami.  However, we strongly encourage families to enrol their child in our program or another Hebrew school.  Not only do the years of exposure to Jewish learning make a difference in how much is understood and retained, but having a cohort of Jewish friends in Hebrew school has a lasting value on Jewish identity.

Q:   How often do we need to attend services?  

For a variety of reasons, attendance at 10 Shabbat morning services (at a minimum) over the 12 to 18-month period prior to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is required. At least half of the Shabbat morning services (5) the family attends will be at Kol Ami; the other half (up to 5) may be at other congregations.

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