More Than Just a Party: Bat/Bar Mitzvah, Then and Now
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More Than Just a Party: Bat/Bar Mitzvah, Then and Now

Lesson Summary:

Today, the Bat Mitzvah may seem like a routine aspect of a young girl s Jewish life, but less than 100 years ago, no public ceremony existed to mark a girl s coming of age. Over the past century, what a "Bat Mitzvah" looks like has continually shifted. This Go & Learn guide from the Jewish Women's Archive uses the letters from one girl s campaign to have the first Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah in her congregation as a case study for exploring how we confront controversial issues and make change in our communities. It is part of a larger unit entitled "Taking Risks, Making Change: Bat Mitzvah and Other Evolving Traditions."

Enduring Understandings:

  1. Jewish ritual and practice constantly evolve to meet the changing needs and goals of the Jewish community. 
  2. Individuals of any age have the power to make change in their communities.

Essential Questions:

  1. How can individuals take action to make change in their communities?

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


(accessible via link below, in "procedure" section)

  • Copies of Sally Gottesman s letter 
  • Copies of Paula Gottesman s letter 
  • audio clip of Sally reading her letter
  • JWA s Oral History guide
  • Family History Tool Kit
  • white board or butcher paper


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

• Students will be able to identify elements/issues that motivate people to make change in their communities
• Students will be able to articulate different strategies for making change in their communities


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