Connecting B’nai Mitzvah to Jewish History via Library Treasures

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Park Avenue Synagogue have established the Parashah Partnership, a new program that will allow bar and bat mitzvah students the opportunity to read from rare manuscripts and prayer books in the Rare Book Room of The Library, ensuring a tangible and meaningful connection between soon-to-be b'nai mitzvah and their Jewish heritage.

Session Descriptions

In the sessions, students (and their families) will be given the chance to view some of the great Jewish treasures in The Library's collections, and read their haftarah from a fifteenth-century Spanish Tanakh. At each program, students will receive a facsimile copy of the historical text from which they read, along with a certificate welcoming them as honorary members of The Library. Families are welcome to take photos of their children reading from the rare works.


Thank you for an incredible experience yesterday as our family was able to study with you and become part of Jewish history and tradition. The Egyptian treasures, reading the Haftorah, and the experience of reading Parashat B'shallah from the Prague text from 1518 was all amazing—what a great way to approach becoming a Bar Mitzvah!

Seeing the Tanakh from the 1492 still renders us speechless. . . Thank you for your time and truly an amazing day. We appreciate your analysis and being able to see and read from the amazing books. It is hard to fully express the depth of what we saw and experienced.

Please know how much we appreciate your wonderful stories and efforts on our behalf.

I wanted to say thank you for a truly memorable experience yesterday. My daughter and I were looking forward to our visit, but the time spent with you far exceeded our expectations.

You were not only incredibly engaging and gracious, but also imparted so much information in such a short amount of time. Both my daughter and I were awed by the experience. Watching her chant her Haftorah from the fifteenth century text was so moving—I will treasure the moment always.

With Much Appreciation,

Erica F.

The first installment of the Parashah Partnership between JTS and Park Avenue Synagogue was an amazing success. The most used adjective of the night was "special" as two Bn'ai Mitzvah poured over ancient manuscripts with JTS Librarian Dr. David Kraemer in JTS' Rare Book Room.

Whether it was the thousand year old haggadah from Egypt, expensive siddurim from Italy, or ancient Bibles from Turkey, The Library's collection helped make Jewish history come alive as the two families experienced how the little intricacies found in the writing of Jewish books can teach us a great deal about who we are and where we come from.

The visit culminated with the two B'nai Mitzvoh chanting a few lines of their haftarah portions from a sixteenth century and fifteenth century Bible respectively, and by reciting a blessing crafted by cantorial intern Jonathan Schultz and rabbinic intern Ari Saks specifically for this occassion ending with the phrase "Mechayeh Divrei Torah," "the One Who Brings the Words of Torah Back to Life."

Both families left amazed at the materials they saw and appreciative of the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful moment together.

Rabbi Ari Y. Saks


Become a Part of the Parashah Partnership

For more information about the Parashah Partnership or to submit your congregation for potential inclusion in the program, please contact Dr. David Kraemer, the Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at or (212) 678-8075.