The Rise of the Independent B’nai Mitzvah – Bane or Boon?

Gabriel Shacket stood on the bimah, before the Holy Ark, and led the morning service for a group of 75 family members and friends. He recited the prayers and blessings, chanted from the Torah and delivered a speech. In short, the 13-year-old became a bar mitzvah.

“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said his father, Harvey. “A lot of people said it was the most spiritual bar mitzvah they had ever been to.”

Gabriel’s bar mitzvah, held on Aug. 13, 2005, did not take place in a synagogue but rather at the Odyssey Restaurant in Northridge. And the bimah, complete with a reading table, cantor’s lectern, Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) containing a handwritten Torah, and sophisticated sound system, was a rental. So was the cantorial soloist. The whole package, including 24 one-hour lessons for Gabriel, came to $3,000.

The Shacket family’s decision to do Gabriel’s bar mitzvah independently is part of a growing trend that takes bar and bat mitzvahs out of the synagogue community and privatizes them, holding them in hotels, restaurants and rented sanctuaries.

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