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Jewish Life Cycle Events 


The birth of a new child, whether male or female, is always cause for great joy and excitement. Jewish babies are lovingly welcomed into the community at a celebration where they are given a Hebrew name and blessed.

B’rit Milah

B’rit Milah, “the covenant of circumcision,” is the oldest continuous Jewish rite celebrated throughout the world. Its origins come from the Torah when God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male child throughout the generations as a sign of the covenant. Circumcisions are held on the eighth day after birth, even if that day is a Shabbat, a festival or Yom Kippur. If there is a health concern, however, the bris may be delayed.

A brisis usually performed in the home or synagogue by a mohel. The mohel, who may also be a physician, is professionally trained in the circumcision procedure and the religious rules and values. In the traditional ceremony, the child is handed by his mother to a kvaterin (godmother) who then gives the baby to a kvater (godfather). As the baby enters the room, he is greeted by family and guests with the words “Blessed be he who comes.” The kvaterthen hands the child to a sandek, a special person selected by the parents to hold the baby during the circumcision. A blessing is recited and the circumcision, which takes very little time, is performed. The child’s father reads a prayer thanking God for the commandment that he “bring the child into the covenant of Abraham our father.” Then, there is a blessing over the wine, some of which is touched to the infant’s lips, a prayer for the child’s health, and the bestowing of the baby’s Hebrew name. Onlookers pray for the boy to “grow into a life of Torah, marriage and good deeds” and then join in a festive meal to celebrate the fulfillment of this religious obligation.


Baby Naming

Being egalitarian, we encourage parents to name their daughters in a religious ceremony conducted at home or in the synagogue. Most baby namings take place within four to six weeks after the child is born. During this ceremony, the parents hold their baby while they recite blessings over candles and wine. The clergy then blesses the child with traditional prayers and has the honour of bestowing her Hebrew name. Following the naming ceremony, family and guests are invited to join in a festive meal or Oneg Shabbat.

Please contact us when your baby is born in order to schedule a bris or baby naming.

Bar & Bat Mitzvahs

Word of Welcome


Dear Families of B’nei Mitzvah,

Congratulations on your family’s forthcoming Simcha.  We hope that this wonderful occasion will be an opportunity for you to experience our joyous Jewish tradition.  Our ritual leader, Cantor Levin is available to answer your questions and regarding preparations for your special day. As well, members of our School Staff and members of our Ritual Committee, in consultation with Cantor Levin will assist you and your family.

In order to help make your Simcha religiously meaningful and personally significant, we have prepared information about the history of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, some considerations regarding guidelines for the course of study, and overall suggestions for this special occasion.

The following information will answer many of your questions. However, it is essential that you contact Cantor Levin. Your children will invest many hours of preparation for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.  We hope that this will indeed be the beginning of their involvement at Burquest, and that they will return to lead services or read from the Torah or Haftarah many times in the future.  We will be happy to help you and any members of the family with your role in the service, preparations for the day, and the like.  We look forward to working with you and your children and being together on many happy occasions.

Please note that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is available to Burquest members in good standing.  For more information about membership please contact the office.


What is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

 Bar Mitzvah Handbook (298 KB)

"Bar Mitzvah" literally means "son of the commandment".  "Bar" is "son" in Aramaic. "Mitzvah" is "commandment" in both Hebrew and Aramaic. "Bat" is daughter in Hebrew and Aramaic.  Historically, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah marked the transition into the adult world of Jewish life at age thirteen for boys and twelve for girls.  Further, he/she is counted among the ten Jewish adults needed for Minyans, so that complete religious services could be completed.  A Bar Mitzvah is the celebrant’s first aliyah, that is being called to the Torah.  If the ceremony occurs on a Shabbat or festival, the child chants a portion of the weekly Torah reading (Parashah) and reads from the Prophets (Haftorah) including its traditional chant.

A Seudat Mitzvah, a meal celebrating the performance of a new Mitzvah, follows the ceremony.  The Bar Mitzvah event is the opportunity to mark a new beginning by the child to a pursuit of Judaism.  The ceremony is public and introduces a new adult member to the community.  It is the means of expression as to how we embrace our cherished traditions and values for the rest of our Jewish lives.


A Time for Family Involvement

The personal meaning of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is enhanced when the parents and child are adequately prepared. We offer many opportunities for families to express their pursuit of Judaism and Jewish education. Since children learn more from what we do than what we say, families are expected to attend services on a regular basis.  Parents unable to read Hebrew may receive direction from Cantor Levin.


Commitment of families to attend services regularly with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is expected by our community.

Parents are expected to take an active interest in their child’s Synagogue involvement, encourage faithful attendance at religious school, Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes and youth activities, and encourage their child to continue his/her education and involvement in Judaism.  Preparation leading up to this special day is a commitment that involves the whole family and not just the individual.


Religious Education

Burquest recognizes that children will approach Bar/Bat Mitzvah studies with varying levels of preparation and previous education and exposure to Jewish traditions.  Cantor Levin in consultation with the School Staff and Ritual Committee members will assist in the evaluation of your child’s proficiency in these areas.  Further, it is our expectation that children will attend our Hebrew School in the years leading to B’nei Mitzvah.

The objective of Burquest Hebrew School is to provide a foundation and the necessary skills upon which our children can develop and mature as knowledgeable Jews.  Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not just the culmination of our children's Primary Religious School education, but the beginning of a life long Jewish pursuit. The Commandment states "Teach Your Children Diligently."  We endeavor to fulfill this commandment.  It is important to note that a Bar Mitzvah is not the goal of a Jewish education, nor is it a graduation ceremony marking the end of a person's Jewish education. We are obligated to study Torahthroughout our lives. Our desire is to educate the mind and develop love and appreciation of our tradition.


Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation

Familiarity with the kind of a service Burquest conducts note that if the mother is not Jewish, the child requires a conversion process.

  • Familiarity with the kind of a service Burquest conducts.

  • Choosing the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Date

  • Receiving the specific information regarding the Torah and Haftorah reading

  • Budget considerations should not be a determining factor in tradition of hosting a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.  Burquest can offer a subsidy for fee assistance for aspects of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony which can be considered by Burquest in confidence. Please contact the Administrator for these private issues. 

  • Will the Bar/Bat Mitzvah include a Friday night service in addition to the Saturday morning service? 


Bar/Bat Mitzvah Training

  • Training for Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be done by Cantor Levin.  Families will need to consult with him regarding costs, frequency and location.

  • See the Religious Education section of this document for more information relevant to this topic.

  • Should there be a situation regarding a child’s ability to perform all the parts of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, the extent to which the child is able to fulfill the expectations will be evaluated by Canto Levin.  Parents will be included in this process as well.

  • It is required that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child will volunteer time to at least one community event in the year prior to their ceremony.


Parts of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony include:

An Aliyah  
To have an aliyah--to witness the Torah portion reading on the bimah and to recite the blessings over it. Having an Aliya is a great honour and privilege, as Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

The Shema  
The Shema is generally recognized as the central tenet of Judaism, and comes into the liturgy as quotations from the Torah. This prayer is recited in every service.

D’var Torah   
The D’var Torah is a speech prepared by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child explaining certain points of the Torah portion that was read during the service.  It is meant to show the understanding of the child and his personal impressions relating to his Torah portion.

  • Torah reading

  • Haftorah chanting and Haftorah blessings 

  • Leading of selected prayers

  • Thank you speech

Both young men and women make a speech before the entire congregation thanking their parents, teachers and family.



A Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Burquest is a very important community event.  Please remember to invite all the children in the Hebrew class of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child, as well as extending a general invitation to the congregation.  An invitation will be posted in the Burquest Chai Times newsletter to inform and invite the community to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


Tzedakah - Charitable Funds

You and your child may want to include Tzedakah, the concept of sharing, as an integral part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  Encourage your child to begin adult Jewish life by making a personal charitable contribution.

It is a long-standing Jewish tradition to offer charitable contributions at significant times in one's life.  It would be particularly appropriate to make a special contribution to the Synagogue funds or any other worthy charitable cause on the occasion of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. An honorarium to our ritual leader is appropriate at this time as well.  Elaine Goodman our Office Manager will help families in this area.  It is customary for the family of the B'nei Mitzvah to make a donation of some kind to the Congregation. Our Office Manager can assist you with this.  Some family members choose to purchase a leaf on the tree of life in honour of this Simcha. This is a charitable donation and an income tax receipt will be provided to you. The cost of a leaf, including the engraving, is $136.


The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Service

The following information should help make your day go smoothly and be more meaningful to your family and your guests.

Parents are encouraged to participate in the service on the following occasions: 

  • Presenting a Tallit to their child at the beginning of the service.

  • A Jewish parent(s) may have an Aliyah (chanting the Torah Blessings) during the reading of the Torah. If a parent is not Jewish, they may accompany the Jewish parent and witness the Aliya, but not themselves be called.

  • Recite parent's blessing.


Passing of the Torah

The Passing of Torah from generation to generation symbolizes the transmission of Jewish values from one generation to the next.  This ceremony is the choice of the family.  Family members, grandparents, parents and/or family members may come up to the Bimah when the Torah is being taken out of the Ark and complete this very meaningful act.



You may assign a wide variety of honors to distribute among your family and friends including, Ark openings, Torah blessings (Aliyah), Torah reading and the Torah procession.  This must be done in consultation with Cantor Levin.  Non-Jewish relatives may read a poem or blessing in English individually or in a group including the Prayer for Peace.


Candy “shower”

It is a custom at Burquest to “shower” the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child with candies after the reading of the Haftorah.  The family should prepare baskets to pass candy around to the congregation by family relatives or friends at the appropriate time.  Throwing candy during a Bar Mitzvah service is a custom adopted in recent years.   It appeals to the children and symbolizes wishes for a “sweet life”.



Parents are expected to sponsor a Kiddush lunch after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service in honour of their Bar/bat Mitzvah celebration.  The parents will decide on the lunch menu that may only consist of dairy or vegetarian food items.

Set-up of the Kiddush lunch is also the responsibility of the family.

A fee of $250 ( $350 for a non-members) will be charged for the use of the sanctuary for the Kiddush lunch, and will include three tables and three tablecloths.  Additional tablecloths may be rented for $10 each. Additional $100 for final cleanup will be charge as well.


Having a Party

The Burquest sanctuary and tablecloths are available for rent for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah party or function. Please see rental guidelines for prices and more detailed information.


Gifts from the Synagogue

To commemorate the event, your child will receive gifts from the congregation.  The gifts usually include a book, a Bat/Bar Mitzvah Certificate and a gift certificate from the Jewish Community Centre of Vancouver.



The taking of any pictures during the worship service is strictly prohibited both on Friday evening or Saturday.  Also, the use of cell phones is not permitted during the service.  Picture taking may be arranged for another day of the week, prior to the service or after.


Access to Building

Access to the building for set-up, rehearsal etc. should be made to our Office Manager who will facilitate details etc.

Tel: 604-552-7221 

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