As a practicing Catholic, am I permitted to enter a synagogue and participate in a bar mitzvah ceremony?
A bar mitzvah (Hebrew and Aramaic, “son of the commandment”) is a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy who is now considered an adult, insofar as he is now responsible for his moral and religious duties in the Jewish religion. Bar mitzvah is also the name of the ceremony at which the boy is initiated into his adult Jewish responsibilities. Such ceremonies are not required by Jewish law
– a Jewish boy automatically becomes a bar mitzvah at age thirteen – but the ceremonies hold an important place in modern Jewish life. Although not as common in the strictly traditional Jewish movements, many Jewish communities also have equivalent ceremonies for Jewish girls between twelve and fourteen years old. A Jewish girl of the prescribed age is called a bat mitzvah (Hebrew and Aramaic, “daughter of the commandment”); the ceremony for a girl is also called a bat mitzvah.
[quote=RobertM]As a practicing Catholic, am I permitted to enter a synagogue?
As a guest, certainly.
[quote=RobertM][May I] participate in a bar mitzvah ceremony?
What do you mean by “participate”? If you mean sitting with the congregation and witnessing the ceremony, yes. If you mean actively involving yourself in the ceremony (e.g., presenting the bar or bat mitzvah candidate with the Torah scroll), then that is not a prudent idea from a Catholic perspective and probably would not be allowed in many Jewish communities.
If you mean participating in the celebration that ordinarily follows the ceremony, yes. Please keep in mind that the ceremony and celebration are distinct: The ceremony is a religious service; the celebration is a party at which the child celebrates this rite of passage with family and friends. If you wish, you may also give the new bar or bat mitzvah a gift to commemorate the occasion.