When Joanne, Jake’s mom, contacted me last winter about photography for Jake’s bar mitzvah, I was honest. Not only had I never photographed a bar mitzvah, I’d never been to one at all. I love to try something new and different, and so I was excited to be given the opportunity. Joanne explained a lot about the service to help me prepare. But it was still a little difficult to know what to expect.

The service took place at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill. It’s a beautiful building in a great location right on Forbes Avenue.

The temple has bright, colorful stained glass windows. Here they’re reflected in the grand piano.

Jake loves ice hockey, so naturally the details carried a hockey theme. Check out the yarmulkes! I love photographing details, so I was already having a great day.

This is Jake. The prayer shawl he’s wearing is called a tallit, and Jake made it himself.

Joanne and Jake before the service.

My experience with wedding photography served me well. I’m used to keeping an eye on the bride and groom. On Saturday, I kept an eye on Jake and his parents. I’m glad I did, because I might have easily missed them ducking into the office with the rabbi to sign this certificate. And then I would have missed lots of smiles, and most importantly, Jake’s reaction to the “special pen” reserved for this occasion.

One of the readings during the service. Temple Sinai is a Reform Jewish congregation, so readings were both in Hebrew and English.

This is Rabbi Symons. He was wonderful! Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect. But I admit I thought it was possible that the service might not be that interesting. Wrong! Rabbi Symons was so engaging, frequently coming down to the congregation, asking questions and talking directly to those present. He explained everything, sharing all the details of the rich history and tradition behind this timeless ritual. I love to see someone truly enjoy what they do, and it was clear that Rabbi Symons does.

Jake and his family carry the Torah around the congregation. All smiles!

After the service, it was time to celebrate. Jake’s party was held in the Reflections Room at the Sheraton at Station Square. Here’s what guests signed in lieu of a guestbook.

Drink offerings at the kids’ bar.

Each table had balloons weighted down by skates, which would later be donated to Hockey in the Hood.

DJ Kelli Burns had lots of games, toys and prizes and kept the kids entertained.

Jake and his mom enjoyed a special dance together.

But now we’re coming to my favorite moment of the day. The hora! Jake’s expression is priceless as he’s lifted into the air.

Thank you so much to Jake, Joanne and Tim for inviting me to try out Pittsburgh bar mitzvah photography! I’m looking forward to another in February, and hopefully many more. Mazel tov!


Christina Montemurro Photography is a top-rated photography studio specializing in special events, including weddings and bar mitzvahs, serving the greater Pittsburgh area. Christina’s focus is on creating genuine, heartfelt, relaxed images, with extraordinary attention to detail and customer service. Christina feels it’s a privilege to offer Pittsburgh bar mitzvah photography!  Contact Christina now to check availability for your engagement session, wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. Christina has been rated among top Pittsburgh photographers. You can read reviews by Christina’s past brides and grooms here and here.