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Blessed with Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are special in our community. Large synagogues hold two or more each weekend. My American nephew was Bar Mitzvahed with five others and the rabbi could not pronounce his last name. In contrast, we have only a few each year, making each celebration special, a moment to be savored and enjoyed. Hebrew School teachers Nada and Jonathan teach students the essentials of the Jewish faith. Up to a year in advance of the Big Day, both Rabbi Brian and Anneke Silverstein spend many hours with each Bar and Bat Mitzvah to prepare them.


Over the past few months, we have hosted two exceptional Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Instead of big parties, the emphasis was on thoughtful generosity.


Jude  - our first Bar Mitzvah - now lives in Italy, where his father has been transferred for work. His D'var Torah was Parashat Tzavl about sacrifices. With Rabbi Brian, Jude drew a connection between the collective term for the different sacrifices of the past, how it signifies drawing closer to God, and what contemporary sacrifice might signify, bringing God closer to the needy.


Jude witnessed Ukrainian refugees living on the streets in Brussels and wanted to help them in a hands-on way. He created a go-fund-me tzedakah project. He donated the funds to HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS helped Jews fleeing East European pogroms and now has broadened its scope to help Jewish and non-Jewish refugees. If you want to follow Jude’s example, here  is the link to HIAS Europe:

Our second special day was a first, the first twin Bat Mitzvah in IJC history -Liesl and Lilly. Their mother Michelle is an invaluable board member. At the service, Michelle gave a moving speech about how their American-Austrian family had found a true home in our multicultural community. The daughters’ Torah section was about kashrut. Both drew deep life lessons from the dietary rules, speaking in clear, confident voices about why and how we sanctify food.


Liesl and Lily decided to eschew an extravagant party in favor of a donation.  The twins decided to send theirs to Serve the City:


These special Bar and Bat Mitzvahs highlight much of what I love most about our community. We are small (but growing). We depend on volunteers. For Jude, Lilly, and Liesl, no other option existed to participate fully in this crucial passage to Jewish adulthood. The nearest Progressive synagogue in Italy for Jude is three hours away from his home. In Belgium, only our French-speaking sister community Beth Hillel allows women to read from the Torah. 


The IJC is special. It fills a giant gap. It brings us together - from all over the world.

Anu Ristola

IJC President


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