Change and Meaning in Bat/Bar Mitzvah Experience
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Change and Meaning in Bat/Bar Mitzvah Experience

Lesson Summary:

Bat mitzvah may seem like a routine aspect of a young girl s Jewish life, but the tradition is less than 100 years old (unlike bar mitzvah, which has been around for centuries). Over time, the tradition of bat mitzvah has changed and transformed. This lesson explores the letters from one girl s campaign to have the first Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah in her congregation and creates discussion about confronting controversial issues and make change in our communities. Then, choose one of two activities: letter writing or conducting interviews with family and community members.

Enduring Understandings:

  1. Jewish ritual and practice constantly evolve to meet the changing needs and goals of the Jewish community. 
  2. Individuals, communities, and leaders must often balance the need for inclusion with the need and desire to maintain traditions. 
  3. Individuals of any age have the power to make change in their communities.

Essential Questions:

  1. Who are the people or groups in our community who are underserved or excluded by our community s traditions, religious practices, or norms? 
  2. How does being excluded from ritual life and tradition effect members of the community who are sometimes left out? 
  3. How can individuals take action to make change in their communities? 4. How and why have Jewish traditions changed over time?

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore



  • copies of Paula Gottesman s letter 
  • audio clip of Sally reading her letter
  • speakers or sound system on which to play the audio clip
  • pens and paper (for letter writing activities)
  • print out of b nai mitzvah interview questions (for interview activity)
  • white board or butcher paper and markers.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore


  • Participants will be able to identify or imagine, and articulate, the perspectives and viewpoints of different characters represented in the texts (Sally, her parents, the ritual committee). 
  • Participants will engage in conversation with people from other generations (parents or older community members). 
  • For letter writing: Participants will articulate their beliefs about issues they feel need to be addressed in their communities. 
  • For interviews: Participants will make connections between their own experiences and the experiences of other participants, as well as the experience of the people highlighted in the text.


Lesson Contributors

The Jewish Women’s Archive is a national public history organization dedicated to telling the stories of Jewish women and inspiring change and inclusivity in communities everywhere. The collections and encyclopedia on invite learners of all ages to connect with role models from history and today. Nearly 100 lesson plans for kids, families, and adults help Jewish educators weave stories about identity and activism into programs about Jewish values, holidays, and ritual. And, JWA’s professional development programs and trainings encourage educators to connect with one another to create new ways of engaging the communities they serve. As we say at JWA, “You cannot be what you cannot see,” so check us out anytime, anywhere, at