For several decades, WIZO has continued its time honored tradition of holding Bar & Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for thousands of children annually who, because of difficult family or economic realities, would not otherwise be able to celebrate them. This important initiative is one of the flagship programs of local branches of WIZO Israel and WIZO's educational institutions across the country.
When the family of 12-year-old Maya Crystal, who live in the UK, chose to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah in Israel, they included Bar/Bat Mitzvah children from WIZO Pardes Hanna-Karkur, 12 boys and 24 girls who completed 11 weekly prep sessions at their local WIZO branch culminating in a spiritual celebration in Jerusalem at the Kotel (Western Wall) on May 30th. It was the perfect match for the Crystal family, who generously sponsored the day's celebrations for the entire group.
Joining Maya were her parents, David & Pamela Crystal who generously partnered their simcha with WIZO's children in Israel, her proud grandparents, Betty & Jack Crystal, Maya's younger sister Allegra, family members and friends.
The Crystal Family (left to right: David, Pamela, Maya, Allegra, with grandparents Jack & Betty)
For Pamela and David, WIZO runs in the family. Thanks to Pamela's mother, Astrid Misrahi, President of WIZO Spain, and David's mother, WIZO stalwart Betty Crystal, both Pamela and David grew up with WIZO. "It was perfectly natural for our family to celebrate Maya's Bat Mitzvah in Israel with WIZO," Pamela Crystal said. "We did not want to just celebrate for these wonderful children but rather together with them."
"It's all about the WIZO children," remarked Maya's grandmother, Betty Crystal. She and her husband Jack were visibly moved by the sight of the children of Pardes Hanna, wearing ‘I love Maya’ t-shirts as they and their parents sang and danced around them at the entrance to the Kotel.
At the kotel, the Bar Mitzvah boys held a special ceremony were they put on tefiillin and then were all called up to the Torah together and then sang and danced with it.
Meanwhile, the Bat Mitzvah girls held a special ceremony of their own together with their mothers. First, Hagar Perry Yagur, Head of the Regional Council of Pardes Hanna-Karkur, warmly congratulated the girls. Each girl was then given a set of candlesticks, which they proceeded to decorate. The girls were told about Holocaust survivors that never had the chance to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah themselves. The girls each donated their decorated candlesticks to Holocaust survivors. Maya Crystal then lit a candle. Each of the mothers in the group then lit a candle and blessed their own daughter. Then all the mothers blessed the girls together with the tradition Jewish blessing for girls. The emotional ceremony concluded with the mothers and daughters singing and dancing.
"No doubt, the highlight of the program is the grand celebration at the Kotel," said WIZO volunteer Haya Rachmian, who continues to run the Pardess Hanna-Karkur Bar-Bat Mitzvah program that she established six years ago, together with other dedicated volunteers. “Because these kids really don’t have much, I personally want to give them as much as possible. The kids can’t stop talking about their special experience at the Kotel - and they are so thankful.”
At a festive luncheon in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood, Maya made a moving speech thanking the other children for sharing the simcha. World WIZO Fundraising Chairperson Anita Friedman delivered greetings on behalf of the World WIZO Executive and outgoing WIZO Israel Chairperson Gila Oshrat thanked the Crystal Family for their generosity – and their friendship.
After the meal, all the children participated in a lively drum circle. The event concluded with each youth receiving a Bar or Bat Mitzvah certificate and a personal gift from Maya Crystal.
"It was amazing!", Maya Crystal said when asked to sum up the day's events. "These kids are really wonderful and I am so glad I could share my simcha with them. Now my little sitster will definitely want to do the same when she becomes Bat Mitzvah."
“I see how much these children want to have a Bar & Bat Mitzvah celebration, but their families simply cannot afford it.” David Crystal concluded. “I feel so blessed that via WIZO our family could help make their dream come true and provide a memorable and emotional experience that they will never forget. I call on other WIZO supporters to follow our lead. Together we can make many dreams come true.”
Photo Credits: Maty Amali