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Ways the Child Participates Before the Ceremony: Community Service

Return to Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ideas and Primer for Interfaith Families.


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.

A selection from the books of Prophets that is read following the weekly Torah portion. There is a Haftorah for each Torah portion. Plural form of the Hebrew word "mitzvah" which means "commandment," it has two meanings. The first are the commandments given in the Torah. ("You should obey the mitzvah of honoring your parents!") The second is a good deed. ("Helping her carry her groceries home was such a mitzvah!") Hebrew for "righteousness," it usually means "charity" or "righteous giving." In Judaism, it refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, including giving to those in need. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.

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