Back in June 2016, thanks to support from WIZO Panama, 30 students of the 7th grade class at the boarding school of WIZO Gan VeNof Youth Village, including the boy featured in WIZO's video about its Bar & Bat Mitzvah project, 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.
WIZO continues its decades-old tradition of holding Bar & Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for over 2,000 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 and educational institutions across the country. While the main annual Bar & Bat Mitzvah event is sponsored and hosted by the WIZO Petch Tikva branch, the following are examples of recent ceremonies held at WIZO youth villages.
Three weeks ago, students of CHW Hadassim celebrated their Bar & Bat Mitzvahs with a brand new Torah scroll, which was welcomed into the youth village the previous evening, with the pomp & circumstance customary in the Jewish religion. The events were attended by proud parents as well as WIZO leaders, including Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky and President Esther Mor.
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. 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."