Adventure, Travel and Destination Bar Bat Mitzvahs

Did you know bar mitzvah services don’t have to take place in your hometown synagogue?

It’s true! According to Jewish law, the only requirements for reading from a Torah are [1] the Torah and [2] a minyan, defined as a gathering of 10 or more Jewish adults. (Orthodox custom requires that all the adults be male. Conservative and reform temples have varying definitions.)

This bat mitzvah in the Mojave desert exemplifies the spirit of a travel, adventure or destination bar mitzvah Some say a Torah service in the open air makes a destination or travel bar mitzvah especially appealing

This means you're free to conduct your bar mitzvah service in a synagogue anywhere around the world. It also means beaches, sculpture parks and mountain tops are also theoretically acceptable locales -- although whether wheelchair-bound Aunt Minnie adores your hot air balloon concept is, well, up in the air.

A new trend that should revive images of the Wandering Jew is the concept of destination and travel bar bat mitzvahs. These are held inside synagogues or at Jewish religious or historic sites in Israel, Spain -- even St. Thomas!

As for adventure bar mitzvahs, which are held outside, far from a synagogue, what’s the advantage of schlepping seaside and risking a rain-out? Being in the wilderness enhances the spirituality of the Bar Mitzvah, says Rabbi Jamie Korngold, known as "the Adventure Rabbi." Others say traveling to outside the country for such a moving, significant event is a great way to bring spread-apart, over-scheduled families closer together.

What's more, says Rabbi Ronald Broden, "many synagogues require that the child attend religious school for a minimum of [several] years for their inclusion in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. For many families this is not feasible whether due to time constraints, finances or just the inability to transport a child to and from religious school. No Jewish child should be unable to have a ceremony that celebrates this important lifecycle event."

Meet some of our favorite roving rabbis who can help make your travel, adventure or destination bar bat mitzvah a reality. (Know of another great roving rabbi? Let us know.

Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold likes doing adventure bar mitzvahs on the Mesa Trail in Boulder, Colorado, where she has found what she calls “a beautiful natural outdoor synagogue, nestled up against a sheer rock face.” You must apply to join her program. Contact the Adventure Rabbi

Cantor Ronald Broden, a Reform Cantor with humanistic leanings, will travel anywhere in the country to perform your adventure or destination bat mitzvah. He’s even done ceremonies in Aruba and Spain. Contact Rabbi Broden

Rabbi Mike Comins runs TorahTrek, an educational outdoor adventure program that melds Judaism, wilderness, spirituality and environmental ethics. As he describes it, TorahTrek "explores the connection between inner and outer geography, between the journey into the wilderness and the path of the soul." Rabbi Comins lives in California but has worked with Jewish families in Albuquerque, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Pittsburgh, and Tucson --even the Mojave Desert (as shown in the photo at the top of this page). Contact Rabbi Comins

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