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Bar and Bat Mitzvah Program:
Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find a list of our most frequently asked questions about Tawonga’s B’nai Mitzvah program.

Who is this program for?

This program is designed for any students looking for an innovative and progressive B’nai Mitzvah program that explores the boundaries of tradition to provide students and their families with a deep and meaningful experience. It is perfect for families with busy schedules who desire a flexible approach to exploring spirituality and this rite of passage.

Children enrolled in our B’nai Mitzvah program should be open to discussing ideas, becoming a part of a community, exploring the outdoors and learning more about social justice. Research shows that experiential learning is a successful and proven way to absorb new ideas and information in a way that encourages lifelong learning. We are excited to utilize this method to make your child’s B’nai Mitzvah a positive and memorable experience.

We are confident that by the end of participating in this program, participants will feel more comfortable engaging with spirituality and Judaism, and enter into their teenage years more inquiring, confident and socially aware.

This is a two-year program beginning in Fall 2017 for incoming 6th graders*.  In order to reap the many benefits of our two-year program, we encourage B’nai Mitzvah services for this first cohort take place between January and December 2019.

*This program is geared towards 6th graders, so that by the time participants have completed this two-year program, the majority of them have turned 13. Please call our Program Coordinator at 415.543.2267 if you have any questions about these guidelines.

Does my child need be a current Camp Tawonga camper or alum to participate?

Absolutely not! We welcome any student and their family who is looking for an opportunity to become a B’nai Mitzvah outside the traditional method.

What is the structure of the program?

Our B’nai Mitzvah experience is a two-year program rooted in experiential and outdoor learning. Starting in their 6th grade year*, students will participate in programs that incorporate social justice learning, Jewish values, understanding prayers, communication skills, common teen issues and more. In their second year, participants will spend time interpreting their Torah portion and receiving mentorship from a Tawonga volunteer to write their d’rash (sermon).

*This program is geared towards 6th graders, so that by the time participants have completed this two-year program, the majority of them have turned 13. Please call our Program Coordinator at 415.543.2267 if you have any questions about these guidelines.

What will an average class look like?

Each class will meet seven times during the first year. These dynamic three-hour programs, taught by premier and experienced Tawonga staff, will include engaging discussions about issues important and timely for teens, creative methods to understand prayers, team-building exercises, music, community guest-speakers and more! Participants will also have two weekend retreats and family engagement opportunities.

When will this program start?

We recently welcomed our second cohort in September 2017 and are thrilled to welcome our third cohort of 6th graders in the Fall of 2018. This is a two-year program.

Where will the kitot (classes) meet?

Our two kitot meet in their respective locations: either San Francisco or the East Bay.

In addition to our initial B’nai Mitzvah Kick-Off Orientation, students will participate in two retreats located at the NatureBridge Marin Headlands site. Students and families will also have the opportunity to join three local family events (shabbat, havdallah and a hike) with their respective kita.

How often will the kitot (classes) meet?

Students will participate in seven 3-hour classes, during the first year of the program.  These classes, held on Sundays, will be led by experienced and trained Tawonga staff, will incorporate interactive activities and will cover a thought-provoking curriculum.

In addition, during the first year, students and families will join a family Shabbat, havdallah and a family hike. We will also hold two retreats throughout the year in which students from all three kitot join together for a special Tawonga-style team-building weekend.


How much does this program cost?

Cost of $2895 per Year Includes:

  • Seven 3-hour kitot (classes)
  • All experiential-learning curriculum
  • Retreats (two per year)
  • Education and song leading from premier staff
  • Family learning opportunities (havdalla, shabbat and a hike)
  • Prayer & Torah coaching in transliteration
  • D’rash (sermon) preparation (during year two only)
  • Mentorship from trained Tawonga staff
  • Support from program coordinator
  • Planning and preparation for the B’nai Mitzvah Service
  • Optional use of our Torah, Siddurim, and Kipah (up to 100)

Additional Expenses:

  • B’nai Mitzvah service & song leaders ($800-$2000 depending on location and leader. Click here for more information in our Bar and Bat Mitzvah Parent Guidebook)
  • B’nai Mitzvah service venue (Click here for more information in our Parent Guidebook)

Optional Program Add-Ons:

  • Hebrew Tutoring (Click here for more information in our Bar and Bat Mitzvah Parent Guidebook)

How is this different than a traditional B’nai Mitzvah at a synagogue?

Our goal in creating this program is to give teens and families who might otherwise not engage in B’nai Mitzvah studies the opportunity to do so in a non-traditional format. Our program will include experiential and outdoor learning (retreats, hikes, Tawonga-style lessons and songs) and will emphasize building community and positive self-growth.

Since 1925, Camp Tawonga has served as a leader in Jewish camping, honing our approach to character development and positive self-growth in children and teens. At this time, we are so thrilled to apply this holistic model to B’nai Mitzvah study for our community.

Where will the B’nai Mitzvah services be held?

We are thrilled to offer three venue options for your child’s B’nai Mitzvah service (click here for cost information in our Parent Guidebook):

  • Option 1:
    • A service in the Bay Area. We recommend a park or other outdoor space, but you are free to choose any location in the Bay Area that works for your family. (Look at our Parent Guidebook here for suggestions!)
  • Option 2:
    • A service during one of Tawonga’s Family Camp Weekends. Register your family and encourage other family members to attend to be a part of your child’s B’nai Mitzvah, where they will lead our Saturday morning Torah service.
  • Option 3:
    • Rent Camp Tawonga (our beautiful site located just outside of Yosemite National Park). Host your family and friends at a unique weekend in the Sierras with your child’s B’nai Mitzvah as the capstone to the weekend.
      (Click here to learn about the cost of and process to rent Camp Tawonga)

Why did Tawonga decide to offer a B’nai Mitzvah program?

Our community asked for it! We have already had numerous families express interest in this program and are excited to see what the future holds!

The unaffiliated Jewish community is growing, and parents are seeking pathways for their children and entire family to meaningfully engage with the Jewish community. 25% of Tawonga families are not affiliated with a synagogue, and this program is designed for this very community in mind. That said, we are also open to working with all families regardless of synagogue affiliation. We believe that this program will allow children to “Take Tawonga Home” and provide an opportunity for youth to feel the same enthusiasm and connection to Judaism that they feel at Camp, all year round!

We fully support our many campers who choose to become a B’nai Mitzvah through their synagogue and have created this program as an avenue for those looking for something different.

Does my child need to know how to read Hebrew to participate?

No! Tawonga’s B’nai Mitzvah program is designed to fit your child’s unique service and we realize this will look different for each and every family.

During our Sunday kitot (classes), all participating youth will learn the melodies of prayers using Hebrew to English transliteration and spend time understanding these prayers through creative learning processes. We will also provide the Hebrew to English transliteration of Torah and Haftorah portions, as well as the English translation.

When does registration begin?

Registration for the 2018 cohort of the Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program will be open to the public on Dec. 13. Families who attended or were on a waitlist for a 2016 or 2017 program can register early on Nov. 29.

During the registration process you will be prompted to make a $250 non-refundable deposit.  Once you submit your registration request, our registrar will send you a confirmation email within two business days letting you know your registration status.

Click here to register!

Please call our Program Coordinator at 415.543.2267 if you need any assistance.

If you have additional questions, please contact our Program Coordinator at [email protected] or 415.543.2267.