The literal translation of Bar/Bat Mitzvah is “son or daughter of the commandment”. While bar and bat mitzvah are often used to refer to the ceremony, the terms also refer to the child. Thus, a boy if referred to as a “bar mitzvah” and a girl as a “bat mitzvah“.

Until the late Middle ages, at the age of 12 and 13 girls and boys respectively would become adults on the occasion of their birthdays. Adulthood meant an adherence to the Halacha (Jewish law) that bound all adult Jewish men and women. As time went on it became traditionally for boys to mark their entrance into adulthood by reading part of the weekly Torah portion. Liberal Judaism affirms the equal status of boys and girls in religious education. Accordingly, we offer both Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies in our communities as part of a Shabbat Morning Service at the age of 13.

However, Liberal Judaism strongly affirms that this ceremony is part of a larger journey. Before the service children and their parents or carers are expected to commit to regularly attending their Synagogue’s religion school and services. Many communities will also encourage involvement in a social action project as well. In addition after the Bnei Mitzvah ceremony the child is expected to continue their religious education up to and including Kabbalat Torah.

Adult Bar/ Bat Mitzvah

Liberal Judaism recognises that Bar/Bat Mitzvah may also be a meaningful ceremony for adults. Some may not, for whatever reason, have had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah as part of a Synagogue service when they were 13. Others may wish to renew or reaffirm their personal commitment to Jewish tradition.

The Rabbis and Communities of Liberal Judaism are pleased to assist adults in furthering their Jewish education and in preparation for being called up before the congregation to read from the Torah.

Click here to see our Bnei Mitzvah FAQ
In the early history of Liberal Judaism many communities did not encourage their children to participate in Bnei Mitzvah ceremonies. The founders of Liberal Judaism felt that at the age of 13 students were too young to be seen as an adult and to declare a commitment to the community or to end their formal education. For these reasons the ceremony of Kabbalat Torah was introduced. At the age of 15 it is felt that students are able to have a more mature and personal understanding of Jewish values and able to affirm their commitment to Judaism as a consequence of a personal decision

Kabbalat Torah is a firmly established religious observance in Liberal Judaism. The programme leading up to the final service encourages students to think about issues in their lives and in society as a whole, through the lens of Jewish tradition and Liberal Jewish values. Apart from formal learning, most courses include active participation in the religious and cultural life of their own Community. They are also invited to participate in events with students from other Communities and on trips to places of Jewish interest in the UK and Europe. As a result, many of our students cement lasting social relationships with fellow students during these years.

Kabbalat Torah runs from Bar and Bat Mitzvah, culminating in the ceremony created jointly by the students and the Rabbis. Many post-Kabbalat Torah students come back to their religion schools to become class helpers, and later a number choose to become teachers.

Adult Kabbalat Torah.
In recent years, adult members in some communities of Liberal Judaism who wish to learn more about their heritage and culture undertake a course of education at the end of which they, as their younger counterparts, will create and lead a Shabbat service.