In Judaism, bar and bat mitzvahs are celebrations of becoming active participants of the religion. To mark the milestone in their lives, boys and girls will often invite their teenage friends to the religious service and reception that are part of traditional bar and bat mitzvahs. For those teenagers who are not members of the religion, it can be a challenge to determine the appropriate attire, behavior and etiquette for these events.
Conservative clothing, similar to what would be worn to church, is the proper attire for teenagers attending a bar/bat mitzvah. Boys should wear slacks or khakis with button-up shirts. Depending on the formality of the religious service, ties and jackets might also be required. Boys should also wear yarmulkes, a head covering worn in synagogues by Jewish men, to show respect for God. Girls should wear knee-length or longer skirts or dresses, and their blouses or shirts should have sleeves that cover their shoulders. Girls might also be expected to wear a head covering at a Conservative bar/bat mitzvah. Head coverings are usually available at the venue.
Although the invitation for a bar/bat mitzvah will list the time that the religious service is set to begin, and everyone is encouraged to get there on time, it is not considered impolite for guests on Saturday to arrive 10 to 15 minutes late. Since the bat mitzvah may be held on Friday, it's best to arrive on time. On Saturday, the beginning of the service will be focused on celebrating the weekly Shabbat, while the bar/bat mitzvah ritual will come later in the service.
Show your respect by refraining from talking during the religious service. It is also polite for teens to sit and stand when everyone else does so during the service. Torahs and prayer books written in Hebrew and English are available to help everyone follow along with the service. However, it is perfectly acceptable for teenagers to choose not to perform any acts that are notably religious, including bowing or covering their eyes during certain prayers.
Before entering the synagogue for the religious service, teenagers should turn off or silence their cell phones and any other electronics, because the use of them is often prohibited in the building. During the service, picture taking is frowned upon as is wearing headphones and listen to music.
Unless the invitation states otherwise, teenagers should bring a present for the person celebrating his or her coming of age at the bar/bat mitzvah. Cash and checks are considered appropriate, especially in an amount that is a multiple of 18, as this is a number that represents life in Judaism. Gift cards and jewelry are also common presents. While presents can be taken or delivered to the reception, they should not be brought to the religious service because it is prohibited for people to carry any items into a synagogue on Shabbat.
Following the religious service, a kiddush will often be hosted at the synagogue for the bar/bat mitzvah guests. In addition to the recitation of prayers and blessings, small glasses of ceremonial wine will be available for everyone to drink. While it is not required, it is acceptable for teenagers to drink one glass of wine. However, grape juice is often offered as an alternative for those who are underage or do not wish to drink wine.
Danielle Crandall has been a professional writer and editor for more than five years. Her work has appeared in various online publications and marketing materials for nonprofit organizations, covering topics ranging from beauty and fashion to home decor to education and society. Crandall holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Arizona.