Tutors & Classes for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation

Parent Q&A

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  • Bar Mitzvah Preparation

    (9 replies)

    Hello, we are seeking bar mitzvah preparation for our 11-year old son.  We are an interfaith family, and are looking for alternative ways to prepare our son than the traditional temple program. (we have contacted 3 reform temples, and they all had the requirement of 1) becoming a member, 2) signing up for Hebrew/Sunday school 3) using their tutors for preparation 4) using their temple for day of bar mitzvah.  Each of the 4 steps had fees involved, which ended up to be $5000-10,000 total, not counting the cost of the celebration party)

    We have been given the referral of Arik Labowitz?  Would love to hear more about his services from the community.

    Also, are there other referrals or suggestions that you can offer?  We would love to hear them.

    Thank you.


    Sacha Kopin not only did the Bar Mitzvah prep for my son, but she also performed the ceremony at Hillel in Berkeley as we are not members of any temple. She also did the prep and ceremony for his best friend whose family was interfaith. Ours was a traditional ceremony; theirs was a combination of Bar Mitzvah and coming of age ceremony. Sacha was amazing. She made it fun, meaningful, and memorable both for us and for the boys. Her fee was reasonable, and she was an absolute joy to work with. We still keep in touch with Sacha and highly recommend her to anyone looking for Bar Mitzvah prep. Sacha teaches at Beth El, and I believe she is still taking clients.

    Sacha (510) 388-2474

    (sachajk [at] yahoo.com); sacha [at] jasminecatering.com


    We used Arik for a tutor for our son several years ago and we still can't say enough wonderful things about him.  We are a lesbian couple, Jewish and Mormon.  We had the service in our backyard.  Arik really knew how to work with our son, who was quite reluctant about the process.  His service ended up being one of the most wonderful family experiences.  We were so happy to do it outside of a synagogue, and in a way reflective of us as a family.  I, the Jewish parent, felt in no way that the service was anything less than I was comfortable with, and my son was also completely comfortable with the way things turned out.

    If you end up deciding to go the temple route, I can assure you that Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro will cost you far, far less than the numbers you have seen so far. The Bna'i Mitzvah prep program with the cantor and the rabbi is exceptional. They only have a few kids each year, so the students get lots of individual attention and encouragement. 

    Arik is great. I've enjoyed attending services that he's led. If you want to know of other possible people to learn from, email me. I've been a member of Jewish Renewal congregations & Conservative shuls & there are some great teachers that can help him prepare without joining.

    Wilderness Torah. 


    We did not participate in this program, but I have heard good things about it.  

    Mazal Tov!

    Arik is great! He does small group tutoring in his house leading up to the bar mitzvah ceremony and then will do the ceremony itself wherever you want. It can be at a community center, outdoors at a park, at your house, etc. You can really customize the experience to what you and your son want it to be. And there's no requirement to join a temple and use all their services, which would be fine if that's what your family wanted but it doesn't sound like it is. Plus he's just a wonderful human being and great teacher, musician, rabbi. We are not a very religious family (interfaith and non-observant) and working with Arik has been great. He is preparing my son for a bar mitzvah this fall and my husband and I have known him since he married us in 2003. 

    Best of luck.

    hi Joy,  our family is like yours---interfaith.  we don't belong to a synagogue either nor did we join one when our son was bar mitzvah'ed.   We held it at the Berkeley Hillel where you could also have the party.   We used an independent rabbi but I'd go with the recommendations that you're getting from others.   I had hoped to have the bar mitzvah and party at the same venue but it ended up being at 2 different places and added up to a lot of money.  If I could do it again I would have a nice buffet lunch after the bar mitzvah for everyone who attends and then perhaps an evening party just for the kids (or not).   Good luck!!!!

    i second the recommendation for sacha kopin. she bat mitzvah'd both of our daughters, as well as several of my nephews. she is great at working with the individual and his/her needs, and really becomes a member of the family. she kept her calm when one of our daughters was diagnosed with pneumonia the morning of her bat mitzvah (!), simply asking what we needed from her and how can she help. she's warm and funny, but firm and lets the student know what she expects. all the ceremonies i've been to that sacha has been a part of have been very meaningful and memorable. we still keep in touch but our monday nights with her. sacha [at] jasminecatering.com

    If at all possible, I would try to find a synagogue/community (Wilderness Torah?) for your child to join for the preparation. The Bar Mitzvah symbolizes joining the Jewish community, so it is helpful to see that the community extends beyond an individual family. Depending on your income, most synagogues will work out reduced fees if you need that. Perhaps you could visit a few and if you like one, meet with the Rabbi. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Bar Bat Mitzvah Tutor with a spiritual bent

Sept 2013

I am looking for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor who can prepare a student and conduct the ceremony. I would appreciate an open minded approach for an interfaith family and some musicality. Ages 8 to 13. Rachel

You should consider Arik Labowitz (http://ariklabowitz.com/). He is easy to relate to and tailors his approach to the student. Recent Bar Mitzvah

Try contacting Patti Moskovitz. She does bar/bat mitzvah training, conversion prep, and everything in between: pattimoskovitz [at] gmail.com Sarah F

I'd recommend Arik Labowitz. http://www.ariklabowitz.com/Home_Page.html He is spiritual and musical. Our family met him once at an informational session he was offering at Afikomen because we were interested in what his approach was, and we were really impressed. Our daughter is nowhere near bat mitzvah age yet, but we will definitely consider him when the time comes. Jennifer

I highly recommend Arik Labowitz. He officiated our son's Bar Mitzvah in 2011. Aside from being both open-minded and highly musical, he is knowledgeable, dynamic and inspirational. In addition, has a unique ability to relate to all types of people, young and old. We collaborated to create a personalized experience that was relevant to our son and family. We were very happy with Arik and the outcome. He runs a Bar/Bat Mitzvah program in Berkeley and can be reached at 510-229-2006. His website is www.ariklabowitz.com Nancy

I highly recommend Arik Labowitz (arikzev [at] gmail.com 510-229-2006) for tutoring and officiating your child's ceremony. Arik has been running an Independent Bar & Bat Mitzvah program in the East Bay for many years. Arik worked with my daughter and then our son. Ari made this truly spiritual for our mixed faith/part atheist family and friends from all denominations. Arik is a fine musician (guitar) and brings out the music and joy in the ceremony. I wish I had known about Arik for my oldest whose experience was not as rich. My friends are still talking about our most recent bar mitzvah. Neither child experienced serious meltdowns/anxiety/fear but actually learned and enjoyed the process. Arik brings an open minded Jewish spirit to the teaching and to the ceremony. Great guitarist: inclusive and joyful. I wish he had been my rabbi/cantor when I was 13! Laura

Hi Rachel, I know a number of people who do home preparation for bar & bat mitzvah. You don't say what city you are in so I'm going to guess that you're in or near Berkeley. There is a very nice man, Arik Labowitz, who is in the Berkeley area. You can see his website at www.ariklabowitz.com. If you live somewhere else feel free to give me a call at Building Jewish Bridges and you can tell me where you live. www.buildingjewishbridges.org 510-845-6420 x11 Mazel tov! Dawn K

Dear Parents, Are you looking for a non-traditional but highly qualified tutor for your bar/bat mitzvah student? I would highly recommend the tutor for my daughter who had her bat mitzvah at the East Bay JCC in October 2010. His name is Arik Labowitz, email arikzev [at] gmail.com, phone 510-229-2006. Arik develops a solid learning plan with the student to make sure he/she is prepared and at ease. He works with the student and family to plan a ceremony that is welcoming, full of love and music, and fits the needs and preferences of the family. Together you can chose your favorite prayers and songs, and add special tributes. Arik sings and plays guitar and invites in drummers and other musicians. Arik can also deal with whatever family issues arise to lesson stress and to remind us of the importance of this time of life for our child. We have so many fond memories and photos which we are willing to share with any of you one-on-one. 510-229-2006 arikzev [at] gmail.com) Robin M

We did my daughter's Bat- Mitzvah with Rabbi Tsipi Gabai two years ago. Rabbi Gabai is Tehiyah Day School's Rabbi, she has been tutoring students for Bar/Bat Mitzvah for over a decade. She is knowledgable, patient and has a very spiritual style. She works with a musician who accompanies the services. We had a very mixed crowd of Jewish and non-Jewish friends; American, Israeli and family members form around the world at our daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Rabbi Tsipi, was able to bring everyone together in a service that was meaningful, respectful and spiritual. I would highly recommend talking to her. Tsipi Gabai: rebtsip [at] gmail.com (510) 725-2345 oweksler

I highly recommend Arik Labowitz, who tutored and officiated my older son's bar mitzvah and is now working with my younger son in preparation for his forthcoming bar mitzvah next summer. We were impressed by Arik's knowledge and his willingness to explore the spiritual aspects of not only traditional prayers and stories, but also of Hebrew letters and history. Arik is adept at working with kids to help them bring out their own spirituality in a way that's both empowering and meaningful to his students.

My son's bar mitzvah service was warm, welcoming and deeply affecting. I was impressed by how much my son had learned from working with Arik, and how much my son's view of Judaism had changed \xe2\x80\x94 from one who questioned the veracity of certain Jewish beliefs, to understanding that questioning and exploring is an inherent part of forming one's spiritual identity. emg1010

I highly recommend Rabbi Sara Shendelman as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor and ceremony leader. She is warm, highly knowledgeable, musical, interesting and a born teacher. Her teaching is filled with creativity with a personal response to each student. She really engages the students and allows them to express themselves with beautiful results. Her ceremonies are joyful and meaningful to the whole extended family. She can be reached at 510 644 2956 or at songbirds22 [at] gmail.com aliyasd

I would like to recommend Rabbi Sara Shendelman and her Jewish Arts, Culture and Torah School (moretorah [at] aol.com, 510-644-2956). My daughter attended for several years and we were very happy with the balanced Jewish education she received. There was enough ''religion'' to teach what we felt was necessary. And, there was ''spiritual'' teaching for understanding about WHY things are done and history and what they mean. There was also fun and music and art built in so that my daughter wants to keep the practices in her life that I believe help her to be a healthy person. When the time comes, Rabbi Sara helps the youth and their families create beautiful services that are practical (read as minimizing stress), meaningful and memorable. Dawn T

Feb 2011

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Prepation & Hebrew Studies: Rabbi Avram Davis is an engaging, fun Hebrew and Torah teacher! He is working with my son one-on-one, tutoring him in Hebrew, helping him explore the meanings found in his Torah portion and to write his dvar Torah (BM speech), and learn the blessings, all with patience and humor. Avram will perform the BM service anywhere you choose. Email moretorah2 [at] gmail.com or call 510-292-9563. Mom of Happy Bar Mitzvah student

Seeking students to share Bar Mitvah Tutor

May 2008

My son will be working with a tutor this year for his Bar Mitzvah in the secular, cultural kindershul/folkshul tradition. To make it more fun and interesting, as well as for financial reasons, we would love to have at least one more student. If you're interested please email me. Thanks. Deborah

Sara Shendelman and Avram Davis, both Jewish Renewal rabbis (the founders of Chochmat Halev in Berkeley), teach bar/bat mitzvah students and younger students in the lovely yurt in their backyard in Berkeley, where 6-10 kids sit on pillows and learn Torah, Hebrew, and Jewish culture through art, song, and discussion in a relaxed setting. Some classes are held in the park across the street. Hebrew school is only ONE hour, 1x week. Classes for the younger students (ages 6-10) are within the JACTS program (Jewish Arts and Culture). My daughter learned to lead all the blessings, to read Hebrew well, and developed her Jewish identity in 2 years with Sara & Avram. We just had her bat mitzvah with Sara & Av, and it was one of the most energetic, lovely services I have ever attended. i urge you to enroll your kids to study with them. Because of the smaller classes, the kids learn much more in the one hour than they learn in 4 hours per week at the usual temple classes. Sara: 510-644-2956.

Daughter would like to be bat mitzvahed

Dec 2004

My 13 yr. old daughter has expressed interest in becoming bat mitzvahed. She's been to a couple of them and I think she's looking for something to identify with. Her dad was raised catholic but is not religious. I was raised jewish, but am not religious. I was never bat mitzvahed myself, but would like to honor my daughter's wishes. I really don't know what's involved, but am open to learning. So, I think I'm looking for a laid back tutor who could help us figure out how to get my daughter bat mitzvahed. Any suggestions or experiences to share?
signed: Hoping to figure it out

This is in response to the mom looking for a private bat mitzvah tutor for her daughter.

You will probably have to have a private ceremony at the JCC, Brazilian Room, Albany Community Center or other unaffiliated site. Synagogues have their own bar/bat mitzvah programs and require a teen to attend at least two to three years of Hebrew school and bat mitzvah preparation in order to celebrate a bat mitzvah during a regular Shabbat service.

That said, I attended a lovely bat mitzvah ceremony at the Brazilian Room several years ago. The family put together their own service (a fair amount of work) with the help of a private tutor. Her name is Sara Leah; I believe she's associated with both Nativot Shalom and Chochmat Halev, both congregations in Berkeley.

Mazel Tov and good luck! Julie

Hi, My son and his friend received outstanding Bar Mitzvah and Hebrew education/tutoring from Sacha Kopin. You can reach her at sachajk AT yahoo.com. Jamie

The family looking for bat mitzvah training should contact Sara Schendelman at 644-2956. She and her husband, Avram Davis, do a marvelous program of Hebrew lessons and nontraditional religious training at the School for Jewish Arts & Culture. Both my daughter and son learned some Hebrew and prepared for their bat/bar mitvahs with them, and it was a truly wonderful experience for them (warm, loving, personal, and substantial) and for me and their dad. Beth

I missed the first posting because I was busy with my son's bar mitzvah-- We did the whole thing independently, and it was the most beautiful, meaningful ritual I've ever participated in. I highly recommend doing what it takes to make your daughter's bat mitzvah what you want it to be. My son studied with Julie Batz, a very gifted teacher and service leader. Contact her at 510 -579-8202. We rented a lovely space at Hillel and used their Torah. You can do it, and it's worth doing. Feel free to contact me, too. Lorelei

How much to pay Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutor

Feb 2004

I am looking for input about the range for hourly payment for a bar/bat mitzvah tutor. Thank you and Shalom. Thinking Ahead

We've been paying our tutor $20.00 per half hour. As far as I understand, this is the going rate. $40.00 per hour, give or take $5.00. Our Bar Mitzvah is in less than 3 weeks...Whew!! Mazel Tov to you and your family June