Riverdale Temple delights in welcoming the arrival of new family members into the covenant of Judaism, and into the temple family. We have various rooms that are perfect for the celebration of a b’rit milah, and if you need guidance in contacting an appropriate mohel, or ritual circumciser, please feel free to contact our rabbi who can advise you about the options available depending on your family’s specific needs.
Temple members are encouraged to celebrate a baby naming — whether for a boy or girl — by being called to the Torah for an aliyah at a Sabbath morning service. Baby namings are usually celebrated at Sabbath services as well — either during an aliyah on Shabbat morning, or at a Friday evening “Kabbalat Shabbat” service. There is no age limit on naming ceremonies for girls (boys usually receive their ritual Hebrew name during the b’rit milah). Children of all ages — and even adults — may choose to celebrate a ritual naming during services. Please contact the rabbi for more information.
Member families who send their children through our religious school program are eligible to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah once the student turns 13 (by either the Hebrew or Gregorian calendar). Students must have been enrolled for at least three years prior to their ceremony, unless they are fluent in Hebrew, and/or attend a Hebrew day school. In such cases, the rabbi will work with the family to determine what type of involvement in the congregation will make the ritual of bar or bat mitzvah most meaningful. Some of our Hebrew-fluent students have served as tutors in the school, or worked with our youth group, or participated in special programs in the congregation in order to feel a sense of identification with Riverdale Temple as their spiritual home. They have added to our sense of community as well.
Unaffiliated families who find themselves desiring a bar or bat mitzvah celebration for their children are encouraged to contact Rabbi Lewis to discuss the options.
Adult instruction in basic Judaism and Hebrew is also available. Adults who did not have the opportunity to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony as children may choose to join an Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah class leading to a shared Sabbath morning service at which they chant from the Torah and Haftarah, and lead major portions of the worship. Classes are formed according to demand. Please contact us if you are interested in joining a class. Rabbi Gardner is also available to work with individuals to prepare a Torah or Haftarah portion for any available Sabbath of their choice.
High School, Youth Group and Confirmation
Two hundred years ago or more, the founders of Reform Judaism decided that the traditional age of bar mitzvah no longer seemed appropriate as the entry point into adulthood. Nor did the concept of accepting personal responsibility for fulfillment of the mitzvot resonate powerfully from the perspective of the historical evolution of Jewish law. Instead, certainly borrowing a page from their Protestant neighbors, the reformers developed a ceremony of “confirmation” — to be held on the festival of Shavuot — for older students who were actually entering the independence of adulthood. Among Reform Jews, Confirmation revived the observance of Shavuot — a festival otherwise without unique “affective” components such as a sukkah or a seder. There was a time in reform synagogues in America when every student in the religious school was expected to (and usually did) participate in a Confirmation. As bar mitzvah crept back into reform synagogues over the past half-century, and bat mitzvah was added as part of Reform Judaism’s commitment to equality, Confirmation lost some of its obligatory nature.
At Riverdale Temple, we have an extraordinary group of young adults, post-bar or bat mitzvah high school students who continue to be actively engaged in study and service to the congregation. They volunteer in our religious school, take part in leading our regular worship services, and form the core of a Youth Group that organizes social events for their peers.
In general, Rabbi Gardner officiates at life-cycle ceremonies only for members of the congregation and their families. This is not only because of the constraints on his time, but primarily because he values the continuity and connection that he can maintain with congregants. The rabbi is, however, always happy to provide counsel and guidance to couples who are contemplating a wedding — whether they are members of the congregation or not. Over the course of his rabbinate, he has developed special expertise in working with interfaith couples to sort out the many issues that can arise, and to help them clarify their plans for the spiritual identity of their family. Please feel free to contact Rabbi Gardner if you are seeking guidance about an interfaith marriage.
Rabbi Gardner, and Riverdale Temple in general, is also firmly committed to marriage equality — both in officiating at same-sex weddings, and welcoming LGBT couples and individuals into the congregation.