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Bar Mitzvah - Etiquette for Non-Jew Guests

A bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is a very important event in the life of a young Jewish boy and girl about to enter adulthood. This is considered a family affair wherein all members of the family and immediate family get involved in the religious and party celebrations. Close friends are also invited to witness the event.

Not all guests, though, who come to a bar or bat mitzvah are Jewish. Some relatives may have married non-Jews and some friends of the celebrant may have different religions. So what then is the proper etiquette for non-Jews attending a mitzvah event?

Initially, guests should do some research on details of the Shabbat worship service such as the dress code, seating arrangement, how long the service is, what segments are included and so on. Some great resources are the internet, books and magazines on the Jewish religion. You may also ask close friends who are Jewish or better yet a rabbi to get first hand information on this issue.

The service normally lasts for an hour or an hour and a half especially for the Reform, Reconstructionist or Jewish Renewal synagogues. For other congregations such as the Orthodox and Conservative, it can take up to three hours.

During the service, non-Jews should follow other members when they stand or sit down. They are not expected, though, to recite the prayers or perform rituals.

Dressing appropriately for the religious service is a must. Women and girls should wear dresses with suitable necklines and hemlines, suits or pantsuits while men should wear suits with a tie, white shirt and dress shoes. Men who wish to wear the skullcap or yarmulke can do so. The tallit or prayer shawls, however, are worn only by the Jews according to the Torah commandment.

Anybody can leave the sanctuary during the ceremony but there are certain portions when one is not allowed to leave. An usher is assigned to keep the doors closed during this time.

For parents bringing along their teens, inform the children beforehand that the worship service will be long and that they should behave well during the ceremony. Decent behavior and proper language are called for in this celebration. Some synagogues may allow young people to explore the garden when they’re bored. Another technique to keep youngsters from getting bored would be to let them witness only the bar mitzvah ceremony and skip the early portion of the service.

During the reception party, guests are expected to show proper behavior as well. Bring a gift for the celebrant whether it is something he or she could use ideal for a 12-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy such as a religious item or in the form of money or gift certificate. Be sure to take part in the activities during the party and avoid making negative comments about certain parts of the party to the host and other guests. No matter what takes place in the celebration, keep your complaints to yourself.

Finally, don’t forget to be courteous and respectful at all times. Say “please” and “thank you” and tell the host how you like the party decorations and favors. Showing good manners while attending a party is a sure way to make a lasting impression on the celebrant and the host.

Read more articles on the subject: Bar Mitzvah Traditions Still Being Observed Today

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