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Ways the Child Participates Before the Ceremony: Community Service
Along with the study involved in preparing to read the Torah and Haftarah and preparing to lead sections of the service, many bar/bat mitzvahs-to-be perform community service projects. Many congregations now require prospective bar/bat mitzvahs to do a community service project.
Some ideas for projects that pay tribute to a child’s interfaith heritage include:
- Raising money for the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which supports elderly non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
- Raising money for charities that address problems that unite religious communities, such as fighting the Darfur genocide or feeding the hungry.
- During the 13 months prior to the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony, doing 13 community service projects with (or dedicated to) 13 different relatives, Jewish and non-Jewish, and putting together a scrapbook of the activities.
- Inviting guests at the party to bring a book, old piece of clothing or non-perishable food item to donate to a worthy cause. Choose a secular charity, or perhaps even choose one Jewish charity and one non-Jewish charity.
- After the party, donating the leftover food or the flower arrangements to ecumenical charities, or one Jewish and one non-Jewish charity.
Naomi Eisenberger, the managing director of the Ziv Tzedakah Fund, recommends that children consider the following four questions when deciding what to do for their social action project:
- What am I good at?
- What do I like to do?
- What bothers me so much about what is wrong in the world that I get very angry and want to do whatever I can to change it?
- Who do I know?
A good source for social action/charity ideas is Areyvut.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ideas and Primer for Interfaith Families is also available as a PDF document.