A bar mitzvah boy giving the traditional speech, thanking his parents and promising to be a good Jew. Jews become bar mitzvah (subject to the commandments) at the age of 13 (boys) and 12 (girls), attaining legal and religious maturity. To mark their entry as full members of the community, boys are called to read from the Torah for the first time. Similar ceremonies have been introduced for girls. Since Biblical times Jewish children have been taught to read and write, and Jews in the Diaspora were usually the only group that was literate.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, "The Bar Mitzvah Speech," 1860