Becoming bar/bat Mitzvah simply means to reach the age at which one is responsible for one’s own Jewish life. This happens at the age of 13 (in the Orthodox tradition girls come of age at 12, in Reform all are treated equally). This legal transition happens regardless of whether or not it is marked in synagogue, however the celebration has come to have great resonance throughout the Jewish world as an adulthood transition and family/communal occasion. Since the twelfth/thirteenth century the primary ritual to mark becoming bar mitzvah has been reading from Torah.
In this article Rabbi Michael Hilton of Kol Chai Synagogue, author of Bar Mitzvah: A History outlines the history of the British Reform approach to the ceremony and celebration of b’nei mitzvah, and some of the values that underpin our work in this area.