In Jewish tradition, youth begin their journey into adulthood at the age of 13. Called a Bar or Bat Mitzvah (B’nai Mitzvah for multiples), he or she is the son or daughter of the commandments and is now responsible for their own actions. This period of spiritual growth emphasizes selflessness, responsibility, and community involvement.
Students spend a year or more learning and preparing for this milestone. They attend Shabbat and learn Hebrew and often have a community service project to complete as well. Making Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a huge accomplishment and a genuinely joyous occasion worthy of recognition.
Photo coverage for your son or daughter’s Mitzvah celebration often begins with family photos at the synagogue. I will capture a variety of portraits of the 13-year-old, showing off their personality, as well as family groupings and any other important guests. Reading from the Torah, holding the scrolls in front of the ark, or standing in front of the Bimah are standard Mitzvah portraits inside the synagogue.
However, my goals are a bit different than most mitzvah photographers. The compulsory elements are, of course, captured. What makes my approach a bit different is my desire to tell a visual story of who this child is, what they’re about, and what they love to do. Most 13-year-olds are involved in a wide array of activities. Environmental portraits of that child taking part in sports, dance, theatre, martial arts, or whatever that teen loves to do are keys to documenting who that child is at this moment in time. I aim to depict personality, identity, and expression —not just the standard, impersonal photographs we’ve become accustomed to. So, the photoshoots may be spread out over a few separate days to tell the full story of the bar/bat mitzvah.
During the service, the student reads or chants from the Torah and presents what they have learned in Hebrew School. Family and friends will also speak or read, and the Rabbi and Cantor lead the congregation in prayer and song.
On the day of the service, if permitted, I will photograph the Bar or Bat Mitzvah leading the service, reading from the Torah, chanting their haftorah, alone and with the friends and family who approach the Bimah. The entire service, readings, and candid moments are photographed respectfully and inconspicuously to avoid disturbing the service or distracting the congregation. Obviously, for conservative and orthodox synagogues, this wouldn’t be allowed, and we’d emulate these aspects of the service during the synagogue portrait session on a different day.
Cocktail hour is usually split, where the kids play games in one location, and the adults enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drinks in another. I photograph candid photos and decor images during this time as we get ready for the reception.
When the party starts, often we go right into the Hora! A little dancing and then toasts and blessings over Challah start the dinner hour. Kids are entertained by live dancers and games like "Coke vs. Pepsi" as the adults enjoy their first course. After dinner, everyone dances and celebrates.
After the celebration ends, we will design a custom album for you, documenting the joyous day and this moment in time in your teenager’s life.
Photographing Mitzvahs is unique from photographing weddings in that the concentration is on one family, instead of 2 families together. My goal is to capture the pride in hard work done, the excitement of the accomplishment, and the enjoyment of the festivities to tell the story of this important milestone in a young Jewish person’s life.
I understand all the hard work and planning that goes into these events and how meaningful they are to the community. During the year I had my Bar Mitzvah, I had the privilege of chanting the Yom Kippur Haftorah to my synagogue in Central New Jersey, and it is an honor I will always remember. I’ll never forget how nervous I was as I look out upon a congregation of nearly 1,000 people as they gathered for the highest of holy days.
To this day, I still maintain friendships with many of my childhood friends from United Synagogue Youth, which was a huge part of my life due to my Hebrew education.
I would love to help document your child’s Bar, Bat, or B’nai Mitzvah; contact me today to talk about photo coverage and albums.