Volume 17, 2012-2013 : Formal and Informal Jewish Education:
Lessons and Challenges in Israel and in the Diaspora

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programs and Jewish Identities:
An Australian Case Study

Danny Ben-Moshe,
Centre for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, Australia

This article considers and compares the aims, content and methods of five diverse Bar and Bat-Mitzvah programs in Melbourne, Australia. The research is contextualized with data about the Australian Jewish community. The article considers the extent to which Israel and Peoplehood is included and advanced as part of these programs, and how these programs fortify Jewish identity. The overall finding is that ideology and philosophy remains a primary driver in shaping Bar and Bat-Mitzvah programs, which have either universal or parochial tendencies, with little in the middle. The research illustrates the plurality of Jewish identities, but finds an absence of Israel and Peoplehood education within these programs. The article calls for a greater emphasis on Peoplehood education in Australia via organizational synergy between Bar/Bar-Mitzvah education and other Jewish formal and informal educational experiences, including Jewish day schools and youth movements.

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