Posted on May 19, 2022 by Cantor Seth Warner
I am writing to tell you some exciting news. With guidance and assistance from the Keshet Committee and approval from the Board of Trustees, Congregation Shaare Emeth has renamed our B’nei Mitzvah program the B’Mitzvah Program.
This shift reflects Shaare Emeth’s commitment to “best practices” to include all as their true, authentic selves so all of our congregants can fully participate in communal worship. Gender inclusiveness is already part of Shaare Emeth’s welcoming culture.
Judaism tells us that all are created “B’Tzelem Elohim” – in God’s Image. This shift expands this commitment to respecting students by putting options in place at the start of the B’Mitzvah process. Clergy will partner with parents and guardians to create a simcha that honors their children. Traditional, gendered language and certificates will be offered, just as before. We are simply expanding options for students.
Renaming the program includes Hebraically removing gender specificity from Bar and Bat Mitzvah; thus we will refer to everyone as B’Mitzvah when referring to the cohort.
This subtle yet important change in our nomenclature gives more choices to all of our students and their families. Our goal is to be as inclusive and as welcoming as possible to all. We know that pronouns and proper names matter now, more than ever before; we want to meet our families’ needs of inclusivity, acceptance, and choice.
Students in the B’Mitzvah program will have the opportunity to choose what they prefer they call their celebration. Options are dynamic, and can be updated throughout B’Mitzvah study. Adult B’Mitzvah students will also choose what to call their simcha. In fact, I’m pleased to tell you that the current adult class who will become B’Mitzvah on June 3 have chosen to name their simcha B’Mitzvah to show their support for the name change in anticipation of the change.
This shift follows a national trend that reflects the Reform Movement’s respectful inclusion. Our Reform tradition compels us to meet people where, when, and for whom they are.
I am proud that Congregation Shaare Emeth is the first congregation in St. Louis to name their program B’Mitzvah, which demonstrates our full dedication to welcoming everyone to the bimah to grow and learn in a manner that reflects who they really are.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to speak with me directly about this name change.
Cantor Seth Warner