We are presently planning my daughters BatMitzvah ceremony and celebration. Could we have her service on a Monday evening? Thank you in advance. L.L.
Mazal tov on your daughter's upcoming bat mitzvah celebration and thank you for your question.
You ask about whether it is appropriate to celebrate her bat mitzvah on a Monday night. Different congregations within the Reform Movement set different standards for when their celebrations of b'nei mitvah (plural of bar and bat mitzvah) may be held. However, in general, such services are held at times when the Torah is read, and this does not include Monday nights.
First, I should say a few things about what the life cycle event of bar and bat mitzvah signifies. Traditionally, a Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah when he turns thirteen years old, regardless of what ritual is used to mark the occasion. Becoming a bar mitzvah means that the boy has become a full-fledged member of the community of Jews who are enjoined to perform mitzvot -- the ritual and ethical acts that Jews perform in response to our relationship with God. In recent decades, it has become the accepted practice among liberal Jews to give the same honor to a girl when she becomes a bat mitzvah.
When a child becomes bar or bat mitzvah, it is customary to call him or her up for an aliyah to the Torah in the synagogue as the child's first publicly performed mitzvah. An "aliyah" is simply going up to the bimah to recite the blessings before and after the Torah reading.
The so-called "bar mitzvah service" is really just a regular worship service during which the bar or bat mitzvah is called for an aliyah. One of the oddities of contemporary American Jewish life is that the celebrations of b'nei mitzvah seems to have swallowed the rest of the service. From the perspective of Jewish tradition, though, it would be meaningless to have a "bar mitzvah service" at a time when there is no Torah reading. That would really be putting the cart before no horse at all.
Traditionally, Torah is read in the synagogue in the morning on Mondays, Thursdays, Shabbat and holidays. Torah is also read on Shabbat afternoon. All of these are appropriate times to call up a bar or bat mitzvah to read from Torah, although it is most common in American Judaism to observe a bar or bat mitzvah celebration on Shabbat.
There have been a few Reform congregations that have allowed so-called "b'nei mitzvah services" at times when Torah is not traditionally read. Some congregations allow "havdalah bar mitzvahs," celebrations at a Saturday evening service marking the end of Shabbat. Some also have allowed Friday night bar mitzvah celebrations, since many Reform congregations do read from Torah on Friday nights. Most Reform congregations have moved away from these practices, however, out of a desire to avoid turning bar and bat mitzvah celebrations into private services. Traditionally, Torah is not read during any evening service accept on Simchat Torah.
Most congregations would not allow a Monday night bar or bat mitzvah celebration, as you propose. However, you should consult with the rabbi in your community for an opinion on these questions. Practices do vary widely in different Reform communities. The Reform Movement does not dictate any particular policy in these matters and gives broad latitude to rabbis and congregations to set policies that meet the needs of their communities and that honor Jewish tradition.
Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser