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B'nei Mitzvah Protocols

Dear B Mitzvah families,

We have put together options, FAQs, and protocols for holding B Mitzvah services at University Synagogue. These guidelines are not only informed by the standards and protocols established by the CDC, the California and Los Angeles Departments of Health, but also, by the ethical guidelines of our Jewish tradition that place the preservation of human life (pikuach nefesh) as the most essential of values.

As you are well aware the circumstances surrounding the COVID pandemic are continually evolving.  Health department protocols often change from one day to the next. It is, therefore, important to note that the UniSyn protocols noted below may also change in order to comply with the current mandates of the California and Los Angeles Departments of Health.


The Reopening Task Force, University Synagogue

Service Options

*These protocols will resume if and when we are able to reconvene in-person services.  In recognition of the current health emergency in Los Angeles county we are currently not holding any in-person b or mitzvah services. Until further notice all b mitzvah observances will be held online. When the health emergency eases we will consider reconvening small outdoor gatherings.

1. Zoom B Mitzvah Service (with or without Torah Scroll Home Visit). This option will afford you the opportunity to foster the Torah in your home for the week of the B Mitzvah, and your child will be able to read directly from the scroll in your home.  Alternatively, children are welcome to chant from the tikkun pages (the Torah print-outs in their binders). Clergy will be on the Zoom call and will help to lead the service with all of your guests and the University Synagogue community. Finding the spot in the Torah won't be a problem and we will coach you through all the details.

2. A small gathering B Mitzvah at University Synagogue. Following recommendations regarding small group gatherings by the CDC, the State of California, and LA County, we may gather in a small, intimate minyan on Shabbat morning or afternoon for up to an hour in Ruby Garden with prayers, Torah service with Torah, parent blessing, D’var Torah, and live streaming to your friends, family, and congregation. Face coverings and physical distancing is mandatory. Attendance at these gatherings will be limited to 30 people. Clergy and other required UniSyn personnel required for security, broadcasting, etc., will also be present. A normative service for b mitzvah includes 2 technicians (video and audio), an accompanist, a security guard, and 2 clergy. Any family who chooses this option does so with the understanding that if CA State or LA protocols change, making compliance impractical, the service will be postponed. Please note that we have no warning about changes to the protocol before they happen. When protocols change, we must be in compliance immediately. Please see University Synagogue B Mitzvah protocols below.

3. Postpone your date indefinitely.  The age of 13 is only the first opportunity to have an aliyah and lead services. There is no expiration date on this honor — some people do it in their 80’s! If you would rather bypass all of these pandemic-related compromises, you are welcome to simply postpone until we are able to once again hold large gatherings in the Kopelson Family Sanctuary at University Synagogue. This option allows you to reserve one date only on the upcoming calendar. Since we cannot predict when full normalcy will resume, or what it will look like, we understand that the date may have to be moved multiple times.

4. Indoors: At the current time (2/22/2021) we are not able to offer B Mitzvah services indoors in the Kopelson Family Sanctuary or the Gray Family Chapel or any other indoor space. Singing prayers and chanting from the torah and haftarah are such an integral part of your child’s service and of Jewish communal prayer. Singing/chanting indoors is still not considered a safe activity, and thus at this time, we will offer outdoor B Mitzvah services in Ruby Garden. At such time as we are able to offer an indoor option safely and within the state and local protocols, we will update this document and be in touch with all of our families.

Again, we understand how incredibly difficult and challenging this moment is for you.  It is a moment that you have been thinking about and planning for, for many years.  Our hearts ache with yours.  We, too, want nothing more than to be able to safely celebrate with you in our beautiful sanctuary.  We pray that day may come soon!




The Reopening Task Force, University Synagogue 




Every Shabbat has a different Torah portion. However, no student will be required to learn a new portion when changing a date. Rescheduled dates will have their own memorable narrative but children will keep their original assigned Torah portions once they have learned them.

What about Friday night services? All Friday night Erev Shabbat services will continue to be held online, in order to provide the safest and most inclusive worship environment to our families. We encourage you to attend these services as a way of connecting with our community.

What if we schedule a Zoom service, but the stay at home order lifts, or city and state protocols loosen? Can we do a small group gathering in the sanctuary with live streaming, or hold the event in our own backyard?

It is possible that if protocols change and our reopening task force find that we can provide space in the sanctuary for small B Mitzvah Services, we may be able to do so. We do not offer in-person gatherings at congregants’ homes.

How many families can schedule a Zoom service on the same day?

We can hold two services per Shabbat. One on Shabbat morning and one in the afternoon.

What accommodations will need to be made to prevent exposure for all?

We will wear face coverings at all times and wear gloves when handling the Torah.  We suggest that students purchase their own yad (Torah pointer) to use for Torah reading.  (UniSyn does have a yad that will be appropriately sanitized in case your student does not have their own.) We will practice physical distancing at all times before, during, and after our gathering.

My child has already started learning a Torah and or Haftarah portion. What happens to their Torah portion if we change the date?

Every Shabbat has a different Torah portion. However, no student will be required to learn a new portion when changing a date. Rescheduled dates will have their own memorable narrative but children will keep their original assigned Torah portions once they have learned them.

What happens when my child finishes tutoring and there are many weeks/months between now and the big day?

Students should continue to practice periodically, to maintain mastery of what has been learned. Cantor Shapiro will circle back to your child a month before the service to review.

Will the clergy lead a Shabbat Morning service outside of University Synagogue?

The clergy and professional team are following guidelines in support of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as soon as we can safely gather the community back in groups and sing and pray together, we will join together in University Synagogue’s Kopelson Family Sanctuary and Gray Family Chapel for prayer services. The clergy are not able to offer private services during the time we are asked to practice social distancing. 

Will we be serving food at University Synagogue when the synagogue opens?

At the current time, no food or beverages will be served at University Synagogue. Guidelines around foodservice and receptions will be formed as soon as we understand the trajectory of COVID-19 public health precautions. We are very eager to resume our joyous celebrations. We will know more about those guidelines as time goes on, and we can keep you posted when we learn.

Will I still be able to have a celebration, Shabbat Dinner, or Kiddush Luncheon at University Synagogue?

Once we know more about the guidelines for celebrations and foodservice, Bonnie Kebre, our Facilities Coordinator, will be ready to help you make your new event amazing. When we are open again, Bonnie will be your point person for ideas, plans, and questions about your celebration. You can reach her at

Thu, June 24 2021 14 Tammuz 5781