Today is May 18, 2013 -
Students at Ohavay Zion Synagogue have wonderful Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. They lead Friday night services, read Torah and Haftarah, give a sermon, and lead the Torah and Musaf services. They have wonderful teachers who spend time with them working on their Hebrew skills, and they are given mp3s and pdfs to help them learn their readings. They also get coaching on how to speak to groups of people.
One of the most important facets of their preparation takes place when they work with the rabbi to prepare their sermon. Emphasizing the Jewish value of questioning, students are encouraged to ask questions on each part of their Torah and Haftarah readings. They then get to pick which questions are most interesting to them, and as they explore them, their sermon is created. Each sermon is unique to the student and is an expression of their interests and thoughts.
Over the course of the years preparing for their Bat or Bar Mitzvah, students not only learn the prayers, but feel and experience the joy of Jewish worship. They develop as people and learn how to be leaders in their community. They shift from being children to being adolescents, with all the wonderful shifts that entails.