We love shooting Bar and Bat Mitzvahs! It is true. The kids are having a great time and we are right in the middle of the action, camera in hand, off-camera flash firing away. The trick to being a great Bar/Bat Mitzvah photographer NYC is being prepared for many aspects of the special day, including photographing in a typically very dark synagogue, doing proper family portraits (don’t forget the stepladder), photographing a casual session with the birthday girl, and then covering the Bat Mitzvah party.
Jewish Bat Mitzvah Customs
In many liberal Jewish communities – for example, Reform and Conservative communities – the bat mitzvah ceremony has become almost identical to the bar mitzvah ceremony for boys. These communities usually require the girl to do a significant amount of preparation for a religious service. Often she will study with a Rabbi and/or Cantor for months (or years). While the exact role she plays in the service will vary between the different Jewish movements and synagogues it usually involves some or all of the elements below:
– Leading specific prayers or the entire service during a Shabbat service or, less commonly, weekday religious service.
– Reading the weekly Torah portion during a Shabbat service or, less commonly, weekday religious service. Often the girl will learn and use the traditional chant for the reading.
– Reading the weekly Haftarah portion during a Shabbat service or, less commonly, weekday religious service. Often the girl will learn and use the traditional chant for the reading.
– Giving a speech about the Torah and/or Haftarah reading.
– Completing a tzedakah (charity) project leading up to the ceremony to raise money or donations for a charity of the Bat Mitzvah’s choice.
The family of the Bat Mitzvah is often honored and recognized during the service with an aliyah or multiple aliyahs. It has also become the custom in many synagogues for the Torah to be passed from grandparents to parents to the Bat Mitzvah herself, symbolizing the passing down of the obligation to engage in the study of Torah and Judaism.
While the bat mitzvah ceremony is a milestone life-cycle event and is the culmination of years of study, it is actually not the end of a girl’s Jewish education. It simply marks the beginning of a lifetime of Jewish learning, study and participation in the Jewish community.
The tradition of following the religious bat mitzvah ceremony with a celebration or even a lavish party is a recent one. As a major life-cycle event, it is understandable that modern Jews enjoy celebrating the occasion and have incorporated the same sorts of celebratory elements that are part of other life-cycle events. But just as the wedding ceremony is more important than the reception that follows, it is important to remember that a Bat Mitzvah party is simply the celebration marking the religious implications of becoming a Bat Mitzvah. While a party is common among more liberal Jews, it has not caught on among Orthodox communities.