Volume 8, Issue 7 / Sivan 5765 / July 2005
Gabi Weisfeld (top center) celebrates with the Bar Mitzvah boys.
"It felt great being called up to the Torah with my friends. I feel proud and happy." Then, Yisrael, who made aliyah from the FSU turned to add one more Hebrew word. "Achla " ("Super"), he said. That just about sums up the moment!
Yisrael, wrapped in tallit and tefillin for the first time along with 28 other pupils from the Ben Yakir Youth Aliyah Village near Hadera, celebrated their Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall on Thursday, May 26, the 17th of the Hebrew month, Iyyar, the 32nd day of the counting of the Omer. The exact date is important because it will always be etched in the memories of all who participated. "Kef" ("Neat") was the word Shmulik, an oleh from Ethiopia now living in Rishon L'Zion, used to describe his being called to the Torah for the first time. Then, he added, "This is also the first time that I am standing at the Kotel. Oh! Excuse me. I have to go now. They want to take my picture."
Each young man received his own tallit and tefillin as a gift that was donated by Gabi Weisfeld. She shares her time between her home in Canada and Petach Tikva. Gabi, who emigrated from Germany to Israel, was on hand to present each bar mitzvah boy with his special present at a moving ceremony prior to the prayer service and reading of the Torah. Each tallit bag was inscribed with the boy's name that contained a note that read, "It is my honor to bless you on this festive day, the day of your bar mitzvah and your going up to Jerusalem and the Torah at the Western Wall. It is my privilege to participate in this celebration with you and your friends."
This ceremony and service at the Western Wall was the culminating event of a year-long study program that took place at Ben Yakir. During the year, the boys learned about the meaning and obligations of becoming a bar mitzvah and the laws regarding the wearing of tefillin. Following the service and before the festive luncheon for the boys, school staff, Jewish Agency representatives and attending parents, the boys went to a factory where they met with a scribe who explained to them how a tefillin is written and made. Although enthusiasm and interest were high, nobody admitted to wanting to become a scribe as a profession.
This ceremony and service at the Western Wall was the culminating event of a year-long study program that took place at Ben Yakir.
Soon the school year will end but not before a celebratory dinner at which all of the parents are invited – and most will attend. "Ben Yakir," explains a staff member, "is a home for over 120 boys in the 7th – 9th grades, who never quite found their way in their homes, schools and communities. Many of the residents come from homes with a very low socio-economic level. There are single-parent homes and homes with a history of violence and/or drug or alcohol abuse. We place a tremendous emphasis on parental awareness, participation and involvement."
The Torah has been removed from the Holy Ark. The first two of the three aliyot to the Torah have been read. Now, the 29 boys are being called up, collectively, to say the opening blessing over the Torah. "Baruch ata…", recite the bar mitzvah boys in unison. "Asher bachar banu me-kol ha-amim," they continue. These boys, now young men, conclude the closing blessing with the words, "…notain ha-Torah" ("…Who has given us the Torah").
"You want to know how I feel today! I'll tell you. I feel even better than good. I feel Jewish."
Let us all say, "Amen."
Written by: Arnie Bendor
Photos by: Leon Levitas