Mitzvah Project: Three Pillars Program

THREE PILLARS PROGRAM

Jewish essayist Hayim Greenberg has said, “A Jew who…does not know to their deepest sounding, such Hebrew expressions such as mitzvah, tzedakah, chesed…. Cannot carry a part in that choir that gives voice to the Jewish melody.  These are the powers that build a Jewish personality.”

Micah 6:8 “What does God require of you, only this: To do JUSTICE, love KINDNESS, and walk MODESTLY with your God.”

By JUSTICE it means responsibility as a citizen, to speak the truth, to pursue peace between all people, to give Tzedakah and to live with integrity.

By KINDNESS it means to not covet or hate. To be mindful of your manners and be careful not to embarrass others.

By HUMILITY it refers to modesty in speech and dress. To respect your body and that of your friend. To demonstrate self-control and not fall prey to peer pressure. Also not to engage in harmful activities.

Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah is the beginning of participation in the adult Jewish world and not an end in itself.  Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Sages, teaches that the world stands on three things: On learning, on worship and deepening one’s spiritual life, and on acts of lovingkindness and repairing the world through volunteerism, service to the community, and tzedakah.  While parents, the b’nei mitzvah coordinator, and the other clergy are all expected to help shape a student’s program of preparation in these important areas, the responsibility rests primarily upon the shoulders of the maturing young Jewish adult.

 

EACH STUDENT AT CONGREGATION BETH SHALOM IS OBLIGATED TO FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS IN EACH OF THE PILLARS:

TORAHtext study: Through the child’s formal Jewish education they must engage in the texts of our history, as well as modern interpretations of those words. The key is to make the concepts come alive for them and applicable to their lives.  Each student is REQUIRED to be currently enrolled in a religious school education program (supplemental Hebrew school at CBS or local day school). The equivalent of such a program may be discussed with our Educational Director, if a student’s needs mandate special attention. Torah study shall be further explored through his/her development of his/her d’var Torah for the bar or bat mitzvah service.

 

AVODAHspiritual practice and participation in services: While attendance at synagogue services is incumbent upon every adult Jew, it is prior to, and certainly during, this bar/bat mitzvah process, that one’s pattern of future behavior can be molded. Each student is encouraged to make a commitment to regular synagogue attendance, and in particular, to attend designated services during his/her bar/bat mitzvah preparatory year. Each should be strongly encouraged to continue his/her Jewish observance following the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. 

Each student’s own spiritual growth will mature at a unique rate. Exposing our Jewish youth to tradition and ritual, as well as literature and the arts focused on Jewish life and spirituality, will nourish their souls and help them find their truest inner selves.

Each student is required to attend religious services of various types to experience the array of religious moments he/she will encounter as adults. Attendance will be monitored by clergy and the Ritual Director during this time.

The services in which your child’s attendance will be anticipated will include the following:

  1. One weekday minyan, morning or evening (Sunday through Thursday nights or Friday morning) per month*
  2. One Friday night or Shabbat mincha (afternoon) service – per month*
  3. One Shabbat morning service per month*
  4. One Yom Tov (Festival) day per holiday which occurs during the bar/bat mitzvah year*

*Participation opportunities in their own ceremony will be based upon the successful fulfillment of this portion of the study program.

 

GEMILUT CHASADIMtzedaka/tikkun olam project: Each bar/bat mitzvah student is expected to undertake a tzedakah/tikkun olam project. The project should be hands-on and developmentally appropriate so that the child is able to see a direct connection between his/her actions and the “repair” of one small corner of the world.  For many of our families, the project becomes a shared family activity, with children working alongside their parents. Ideally, participation in these righteous acts will become a lifelong habit and this is most likely to happen when it becomes a regular feature of family life. Involvement in the CBS Youth programs, such as Kadima, will offer the student multiple occasions to remain involved in acts of tikkun olam.

Project requirements:

  1. The student is responsible to confirm his/her choice for a project with the Cantor prior to making any commitments in this regards. If the student is creating an original project, he/she may receive additional direction from our offices. If one chooses to volunteer at an existing agency or program, he/she must identify those willing to have pre-teenaged children as volunteers. Many agencies have minimum requirements for volunteers, so please be sure that the student is capable of fulfilling his/her obligations as it will reflect not only upon the student, but equally impact those who may attempt the help this agency in the future.
  2. Each student should complete the project form and submit it upon completion of trope class sessions, approximately 9 months prior to their bar or bat mitzvah date.
  3. Each student will be required to present a project scrapbook prior to his/her bar or bat mitzvah ceremony. The book will be displayed outside of the sanctuary on the day of the ceremony.

The album should include an introduction to his/her project and his/her reasons for choosing it. Secondly, he/she should do some research into the issue for which the agency labors. Next, present some diary entries that would be helpful to keep along the journey within this project. Each should explain what might have been learned in this process, either about the agency and its cause, or about him/herself. How did he/she mature as an adult, and specifically as a Jewish adult during this experience? Include pictures showing how he/she has been involved in the process of learning about this cause.

For wonderful ideas for a Mitzvah Project, you can search these sites:

www.ziv.org BM projects and overall Jewish Philanthropy in the US, Canada, and Israel

www.juf.org click on the “Tov Volunteer Network” box and look for BM ideas

www.masorti.org click on “Programs” and then “Special Needs” for Operation Mazal Tov

Within this process of education and maturation we hope that the student will begin to find his/her place within the adult Jewish community. In alignment with the principles found in our Three Pillars Program it is a responsibility for the student to be active within the synagogue youth group. The programs which are offered by the Youth Department are varied and within the many options we are confident that each individual can find programs and activities that will be fulfilling for him/herself. During the year prior to one’s bar/bat mitzvah, each student is required to attend 4 Kadima activities. These may include: Lounge Nights, social events, educational programs, tikun olam projects, Shehechayanu Shabbat on Shabbat mornings, or any of the many events presented by the youth department. Attendance will be monitored by the youth director and advisors.

 

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