Gathering at the entranceway to Beit Knesset Hanassi in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, 18 deaf and profoundly hearing-impaired children and their families anxiously awaited the day’s event – their bar and bat mitzvah celebration. The program, co-sponsored by the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM), the Jewish Agency and the National Deaf Association, is in its 19th year, and, true to the legacy of past years, was once again a tremendous success.
The children and their families traveled from the greater Tel Aviv region and as far north at Katzrin, Afula, and Tiberias to celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs in the holy city of Jerusalem. The day that awaited them was filled with excitement – a reception and Torah reading in the main hall of the Beit Knesset followed by a celebratory meal and organized tour through the Old City ending with davening at the Kotel Ha’Maravi.
Beit Knesset Hanassi graciously opened its doors to host the Bnei Mitzvah festivities. Shul President Henry Israel played an active role in the affair, both up front and behind the scenes, and was in attendance with his wife Francis for the celebration. “I did not know what to expect,” Mr. Israel told an IYIM staff member following the event. “But I was amazed by IYIM, the commitment of your colleagues and above all the wonderful happy faces of the Bar Mitzvah boys and girls. It was a privilege to have experienced this with you and hope we can do so again.” Mr. Israel was honored with being among the chosen few to distribute gifts and mazal tov blessings to the children.
“One father told me in tears that when his son was born he was told he would never be able to communicate and here we are at his Bar Mitzvah,” commented Ceec Harrishburg, IYIM President. “This is what we are about: reaching out to population groups in Israeli society that are falling through the cracks. Among the 18 kids today only one came from a traditional family; the rest might have let this important milestone pass by if not for IYIM. This day is truly the highlight of our year-round programming for the deaf population of Israel.”
By Aviva Sherman