This published curriculum will allow any community to run Beneath the Surface: A Program for Bat Mitzvah Girls and their Mothers. 

Beneath the Surface Curriculum

This published curriculum will allow any community to run Beneath the Surface: A Program for Bat Mitzvah Girls and their Mothers.

In this binder are all the components you need to recruit, promote, plan, run, and evaluate this three-session program for bat mitzvah girls and their mothers. Included are guidelines for hiring facilitators, selecting the right location, lesson plans, sample flyers, intake surveys, hand outs, program evaluations forms, and more. Immersion is not a part of this program, and access to a mikveh is not a requirement to run the program.

Participant fees for the first one or two programs should cover the cost of the curriculum. Mayyim Hayyim has historically charged up to $180 per family for 7-10 families, thus generating up to $1800 in fee revenue per program. more info>> (more »)

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More about Beneath the Surface

Beneath the Surface: A Program for Bat Mitzvah Girls and their Mothers adds choice, empowerment, and experiential learning to the process of becoming Bat Mitzvah, so that the ritual becomes a point of entry into Jewish life rather than an exit.

Mothers and their pre-teen daughters have very different, although at times overlapping, needs. In The Invisible Web, Marianne Walters writes, “[the young adult daughter and adult mother] … are both in the process of restructuring a relationship, not ‘splitting’ from it; and in restructuring their relationship they will need to find ways to acknowledge their sameness in order to be comfortable with their differences” (Walters, 1988, p. 49).

This program enhances the Bat Mitzvah experience, providing a nurturing and safe context in which mothers and daughters may engage with each other. Beneath the Surface complements what in America has become a largely communal celebration with opportunities for intimate, private, creative expression. Building on the success of past Beneath the Surface seminars, we wish to share this resource with other communities so they may replicate our program and raise awareness of how girls’ and women’s increased participation invigorates Jewish life.

Beneath the Surface uses engaging activities within a warm and inclusive environment to strengthen the mother-daughter relationship at the important time of preparing for Bat Mitzvah. Fostering this bond provides a secure foundation for mothers and daughters preparing for the changes of the teen years, creates confident young women who feel a strong connection to their mothers, and highlights family strengths.

The goals of the program are:

1. to offer mothers and daughters an oasis in space and time to connect with each other (mother to mother, daughter to daughter, and mother to daughter), with Jewish history, and with Jewish ritual, both ancient and new.

2. to teach mothers and daughters about mikveh as a meaningful ritual expression.

3. to provide mothers and daughters with an opportunity to create their own, personal rituals linked to Bat mitzvah.

4. to help mothers—non-Jews as well as Jews—serve as positive role models by engaging in Jewish learning and expression along with their daughters.

In the mothers’ group, participants may raise questions and concerns about how Jewish tradition, practice, and values can help them bring up their daughters in the 21st century. Mothers learn to use their life experience as an asset in mentoring their daughters. They remind their daughters that in the not-so-distant past, girls did not become Bat Mitzvah, nor could they be rabbis, cantors, or teachers of advanced Jewish studies; they could not publicly read Torah or lead prayers.

The daughters’ group gives Jewish pre-teens a place to explore with peers what it means to be Jewish, to become a Bat Mitzvah, and to become an adult woman. They explore the meaning of Rosh Hodesh as a “woman’s holiday” and share the challenges of preparing to become Bat Mitzvah. During each session, mothers and daughters reflect on family rituals, both Jewish and non-Jewish. They share ideas. Writing poetry and exploring personal interpretations of Jewish texts about mothers and daughters provides an opportunity for them to spend quiet time together. One girl noted in her evaluation, “I learned that my mom likes to spend time with me!”

To mark the conclusion of Beneath the Surface, each mother-daughter pair creates a unique ritual to mark their relationship at the time of Bat Mitzvah. These rituals have included original blessings, presentation of a family heirloom, dancing, hand or foot-washing, candle lighting, and singing. One mother and adopted daughter researched and bought a plant native to the daughter’s Chinese birthplace, and watered it using rainwater collected by Mayyim Hayyim.