B’Nei Mitzvah

The curriculum of the B’Nei Mitzvah year in 7th grade is designed to build upon all that the students have learned at Machar and to help them develop their own ways of expressing their Jewish humanistic identity in relation to the rest of the world. The year culminates in independent projects on a Jewish topic of each student’s choice. Working under the guidance of Machar’s rabbi and a volunteer mentor from the community, each student researches and prepares a presentation on his or her topic, and delivers the presentation before family, friends, and others at a community ceremony.

Topics covered by Machar youth vary widely and have included:

  • Reports on individual Jewish secular humanists who have made societal contributions
  • Synagogue Architecture
  • Prospects for Israeli/Palestinian Peace
  • Science and Religion: Overcoming Dogmatic Beliefs
  • Jews in the Roots of the American Film Industry
  • Jewish Music of the Holocaust
  • Comparing Concepts of “Forgiveness” in Judaism, Islam and Christianity
  • Immigration in America – a secular humanistic outlook

B’Nei Mitzvah Year
The objectives of the B’Nei Mitzvah curriculum are to:

  • Assist in the rite of passage from childhood into young adulthood as a member of the secular humanistic Jewish community
  • Foster a bond between students, the Machar community, and the larger Jewish community.
  • Demonstrate to students how to incorporate Jewish culture, values, and history into their personal lives.
  • Develop an independent research project and presentation on a Jewish topic of each student’s choice.

Since independent thought and original contributions form the basis of active Judaism, this JCS 7th grade curriculum is geared to assisting students in forming their own answers to the five questions described below. Each section includes both theory and practice.

1) How Can Someone Be Jewish and Not Believe In God?

  • Theism Pros and Cons
  • Practical Responses Based on Jewish Values

 2) How Can I Become a Secular Humanistic Jewish Hero or Heroine?

  • Great Precursors
  • Picking a Hero or Heroine; What Would You Do in Their Shoes?

 3) Is There Hope for Peace in Israel?

  • History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • Modern Israeli-Palestinian Peace Movements

 4) How Can I Live A Life That Reflects Secular Humanistic Jewish Values?

  • How is Secular Humanistic Judaism Similar to and Different From Other Religions and Other Movements in Judaism?
  • Tolerance and Internalized Oppression

 5) How Can I Conduct My B’Nei Mitzvah Presentation?

  • Topic development- Interview with Adults
  • B’Nei Mitzvah Class Presentation Outline
  • B’Nei Mitzvah Topic development- The Presentation (includes speech coaching)
  • Letters to My Family

SIGN IN to our members-only B’Nei Mitzvah program document area for access to our B’Nei Mitzvah Handbook, project guidelines and timelines, and sample presentations.