WIZO, in its educational institutions around the country, continues its decades-old tradition of holding bar & bat mitzvah ceremonies for over 500 children annually who, because of difficult family or economic realities, would not otherwise have them. This ongoing and highly meaningful initiative is one of the flagship programs of WIZO Israel local branches across the country. While the main annual bar & bat mitzvah event is sponsored and hosted by the WIZO Petch Tikva branch, the following are two examples of recent ceremonies held at WIZO youth villages.
A few weeks ago, thanks to support from WIZO Panama, 30 students of the 7th grade class at the boarding school of WIZO Gan veNof Youth Village celebrated their bar & bat mitzvah ceremonies with an unforgettable trip to the Western Wall and the old city of Jerusalem.
Early in the morning, before the group set out toward Israel's capital, the students gathered at the youth village to receive bar & bat mitzvah gifts: boys got a set of tefillin, prayer book and tallit and girls received a prayer book and candlesticks.
The group was festively received at the Western Wall by a troupe of musicians who played drums and blew the shofar. While they toured the area around the wall, the group was spontaneously joined by a unit of IDF paratroopers. After the moving experience at the wall the students proceeded to a nearby school where they were able to see a full-size reproduction of the menorah from the ancient holy temple. After lunch in a local restaurant, the group made its way to the iconic Tower of David Museum for a tour and fun activity.
Earlier in March of this year, 65 students of the WIZO Nachalat Yehuda Youth Village celebrated their bar & bat mitzvah ceremonies in the presence of the Chairperson of World WIZO Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, friends, family and classmates, all gathered at the youth village. The touching ceremony was actually "the culmination of a year of events symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the accepting of responsibility," explained Pnina Gefen, Director of WIZO Nachalat Yehuda. In addition to last week's ceremony, which was symbolic and festive, a religious Jewish ceremony for the children was held at a synagogue in Rehovot and as part of the preparations for the bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, each of the children was asked to prepare and present a project researching and explaining their cultural and family heritage - especially interesting since a large percentage of the student population at WIZO Nachalat Yehuda is of Ethiopian descent.
At the event, Prof. Lazovsky said, "On this festive day I wish you a life full of miracles and self-fulfillment. I hope that you'll dream big and go far because the entire world is open before you. I hope that you will realize your dreams and that someday you will be happy people who know how to give of yourselves to your families and to society." Prof. Lazovsky ended by acknowledging the role of WIZO youth village teachers, directors and counselors, saying, "I would like to congratulate and thank all the staff members who had a hand in this moment of pride. Your work at the youth village is not work, it is a sacred mission."