A bat (or bar for a boy) mitzvah is a religious ceremony in which Jewish boys and girls assume the responsibility of faithfully observing the commandments of the Torah. The ceremony typically starts at the synagogue, where, after months of preparation, the young man or woman reads from the Torah, and is followed by a reception with friends, family, and members of the synagogue. Dressing appropriately for both parts of the ceremony require some basic knowledge of Jewish law and observances.
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In general, women and men should dress in formal attire. Men and boys should wear dress trousers (never jeans), a tie, and jacket. Women and girls should wear dresses and skirts that fall below the knees, or a formal suit. In the more traditional, Orthodox communities, women often wear hats and are rarely seen in trousers. If you have never attended a bat mitzvah before, a good rule of thumb for choosing appropriate attire is to dress as you would for a wedding.
A prayer shawl, called the tallith, is traditionally worn by Jewish males. In more liberal, reform congregations, Jewish women may wear them as well. The braided corners of the tallith are a symbolic reminder of the commandments of Judaism, and only followers of the Jewish faith are expected to wear a tallith. It is perfectly acceptable not to wear a tallith, and you can politely decline to take one if offered by an usher at the door.
Men, whether Jewish or not, are expected to don a kippah in the synagogue. If you don't have your own, there is no need to go out and buy one, as you will be offered a kippah as you enter the synagogue. Again, in more liberal congregations women will also put on kippahs when entering the synagogue. Wearing a kippah is a nondenominational act of respect to God and the sacredness of the synagogue.
Do not wear flip-flops or open-toed sandals to a bat mitzvah. Both men and women should wear dress shoes and avoid anything too ostentatious. Shoes should be classy and comfortable, as there is often dancing at the reception.
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