Bar Mitzvah Celebration for Israel's Orphans [Photos]

by Zalman Nelson - Jerusalem, Israel

July 1, 2009

( 107 Israeli boys orphans were honored at a moving bar mitzvah ceremony Monday, at the Western Wall. Colel Chabad’s annual Bar Mitzvah Project sponsored the gala bar mitzvah with a full reception at the Jerusalem Convention Center, marking the boys’ right of passage in dignity and celebration.

Among Israel’s orphans and their families, many--floundering in their emotional and financial struggles--have never plugged into social services that they desperately need. This year, Colel Chabad, working with Chabad centers Israel-wide, worked to identify and reach out to these families, and draw them into a circle of friendship and support.

To help prepare the young men, Colel Chabad invested months of effort arranging Bar Mitzvah lessons at local Chabad centers, home visits by social service agencies, and implementing additional supportive services for the children and their families on a case by case basis.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Kotel, and Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau handed each  boy a pair of Tefillin, prayer book, Yarmulke and Talit for prayer, and a copy of Lau’s book on the basics of Judaism.

As their families looked on, the boys, helped along by Bar Mitzvah counselors from the Western Wall Tradition Foundation. participated in prayer services and were called up to the Torah.

The celebration continued at the Jerusalem Convention Center where Director of Immigration Sofah Landover spoke on behalf of the Israeli Government and presented the Bar Mitzvah boys with gifts.

A representative group of six boys met Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the cabinet meeting room. “It’s a special day for you and I want to talk with you in the same room where we make the most important decisions,” the Prime Minister said. “It’s such a meaningful moment in the life of every Jewish boy. The honor and recognition you receive today will accompany you for the rest of your life.”

Blanca Shemul is a grateful mother. After months of home tutoring from the local Chabad of Yokneam Rabbi Noam Dekel, her son, wheelchair bound because he has polio, was one of the boys who celebrated his bar mitzvah Monday. Blanca’s husband was murdered in a terror attack, leaving her widowed, her son without a dad to prepare him for his bar mitzvah.

Speaking at the event, Blanca said, “I never imagined such a project could exist and help they way it did. It’s changed our lives.”

“He may be wheelchair-bound, but my son wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah like every other boy his age. I never dreamed it would be possible, but you [Colel Chabad] sent a rabbi to learn with him, got us the support we needed, brought the wheelchair along, and made the dream come true.”

Photos by Yacov Nahumi

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