Program Details

Tawonga’s Bar, Bat & B’nai Mitzvah Program begins for students entering 6th grade* and over the course of two years, culminates in a unique and personalized B’nai Mitzvah service, or simcha.

This journey consists of thought-provoking discussions about topics relating to teens, engaging activities and outdoor adventures led by trained and experienced Tawonga staff and song leaders. Families also have the chance to participate in community events and learning opportunities.

*This program is geared towards 6th graders, so that by the time participants have completed the two-year program, the majority of them have turned 13. Please reach David “Griz” Griswold, Assistant Director of Bay Area Programs, at or 415.852.4224 if you have any questions about the grade guidelines.

Our program features:

  • Experiential learning through outdoor education, social justice and leadership
  • Professional and experienced teachers and staff
  • Award-winning curriculum and student learning materials
  • Two weekend Shabbaton retreats to celebrate and explore the magic of Shabbat at the Walden West Outdoor School in Saratoga
  • Community building for youth and families
  • Once-a-month Kabbalat Shabbat family services
  • Exploration of spirituality, Jewish values, and prayers
  • 7-part parent learning series facilitated online with an expert Lead Educator
  • Torah programming and learning for the family



Student Experience

*Year One

The core of the first year of our program consists of seven, once-a-month classes designed to familiarize students with the seven blessings that form the backbone of a typical, Tawonga-style T’fillah service (Saturday morning prayer service):

Our kitot (classes) are each 2.5 hours in length, and each class includes the following:

  • Camp-style games and activities designed to build connections and community
  • In-depth break down of each blessing: words, melody, and meaning
  • Exploration of Jewish values: What does this blessing mean to us today? How might it provide guidance in our lives?
  • Each kita is dedicated to the exploration of an individual blessing, and over the course of the year, we cumulatively revisit each blessing until students are acquainted with the entire arc of the T’fillah service.

These classes are framed by two, overnight Shabbaton weekend retreats, where all of the students in our program gather in the redwoods of the Walden West Outdoor School in Saratoga to build community through camp-style games and activities, experience a “mock Mitzvah” service, and experience a screen-free Shabbat together in nature.


*Year Two

In year two, students continue to review the T’fillah service over the course of our 7, once-a-month classes, and students also learn a number of new blessings for the Torah portion of the Saturday morning service. Academically, we also begin to take a deeper dive into the Torah and the myriad ways we as a Jewish people relate to this holy document: students learn about the Torah as a physical document with a multitude of rules, prescriptions and guidelines; a historical document that details the stories of the Jewish people; and as a text kept alive through wrestling and debate.

In Year 2, all students also are supported in brainstorming and implementing a Mitzvah Project, where they find a meaningful way to engage with their community and to take action in a way that betters the world. As students prepare for their Bar, Bat or B’nai Mitzvah services, we offer a unique approach to D’var Torah mentorship where we train a mentor from within the student’s family or community to support them in the crafting of their D’var Torah teaching or speech. Year 2 is also when our team works directly with each family to support them and their student in taking ownership over the visioning for their Bar, Bat or B’nai Mitzvah. We then work with each family to help connect them with our extensive network of service leaders, song leaders and Hebrew tutors to help bring those unique visions to life.

My kid was reluctant about going on the weekend retreat. But, when I picked her up two days later, she barely glanced up at me, as she was having so much fun with her new friends.Michelle M., Parent

Press and Stories



We are here to help! For additional questions about the program, please contact David “Griz” Griswold, Assistant Director of Bay Area Programs, at or 415.852.4224

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