A group of 120 youths, from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, Holland, France, Estonia and Spain thoroughly enjoyed an actioned packed tour of Israel. The excursion throughout the country introduced the group to Judaism and mitzvos as many have no Jewish background. RCE points out that this is the largest group of European youths to celebrate their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
The highlight of the tour took place at The Kotel, where the group davened Shacharis. As they approached the Holy wall, musicians welcomed them with songs of The month of Adar and Purim, then accompanied them up to the Kotel plaza departing as they blew the Shofar.
The Girls went up to the Kotel to daven as the boys went to the men’s side. Each boy received a gift that included a pair of Tefilin, Talis, and siddur donated by entrepreneur Rami Levi. The Rabbis and counselors that joined the trip assisted the boys with putting on their Tefilin and they all davened together Rosh Chodesh Davening. The event was sponsored by ‘The Western Wall Heritage Foundation’ chairman Soli Eliav and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin who invested much time and effort to make the event a success.
Thursday night, the group participated in a gala Bat Mitzvah banquet. Honored guests include Israel’s Chief Rabbis HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Lau, Minister of Religious services Yitschak Vaknin, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, Hagaon Rabbi Jacob David Schmahl, Dayan of Shomre Hadas congregation in Antwerp and member of the RCE, Rabbi Maimon Avitan, The philanthropist R’ Moti Sonnenfeld, Chairman of the Ministry of Religion Oded Plus, Rabbis and public figures.
Festivities were enriched by a wide ranged Jewish concept quiz, presented by The “Aspaklaria” theatrics, as they acted out various scenes from the Torah while the children answered by lifting marked banners of their choice from 4 possibilities. Four ecstatic winners were chosen amongst the many who shown a great deal of knowledge, and received valuable prizes. 2 girls won silver candlesticks and 2 boys won silver goblets. Prizes were sponsored by RCE chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin and RCE’s Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg.
The event was celebrated in the “Achar Kotleinu” Hall, located in the Kotel tunnels. Minister Elkin peaked all the Rabbi’s curiosity as he presented them an ancient coin discovered in the archeological digging in the tunnels’ vigorous discussion evolved between the Rabbis concerning the age of the coin .R’ Efraim Kamissar was the MC .The singer, R’ Simcha Friedman and the musician Leibeleh Lipsker entertained the crowd with music and led the dancing.
The” Morasha” staff, a division of RCE, facilitates events within vast Jewish communities, prioritizing small populated cities in Europe. The staff introduces Jewish identity to the youth that has no exposure to Judaism due to the fact that they don’t live in a Jewish environment, as opposed to other Jews that see and breathe Shabbos and Holidays.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah expedition to Israel is the flagship. It incorporates a Jewish education program for 3 months, concluding with a week in Israel. The journey was implemented by “Morasha”, a division of RCE. Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker is the Deputy Director General of RCE and heads the division. Although the logistic dynamics can be incredibly challenging, Rabbi Bainhaker leads the staff undaunted. The magnificent results show for themselves. Donors participated in funding the trip include “Meromim’ fund led by Chairman Rabbi Ben Tzion Lipsker, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, The Ministry of Religious Services, HaShomer HaChadash organization, “Israel’s Office for Public Relations “headed by Yossi Rosenbaum ,Entrepreneur Rami Levi and Philanthropist R’ Moti Sonnenfeld, Chairman of the ‘Danieli Fund’ who actively assists all year round . Special thanks go to Rabbi Eliyahu Edelkopf, Director of the Foundation for the Development of European Jewry, for all his assistance.
Celebrating the 10th year of this unique program, RCE can pride itself with exclusivity of its kind in Europe. The Group visited The Holy sites throughout Israel, giving them a unique opportunity to deepen their ties with Jewish tradition and life in Israel. The youths were accompanied by the rabbis and rebbetzins from their respective communities, and each group was given a guide who spoke its native language.
In addition to the tours and activities, the trip included many educational and social activities as well, for some of which the children were divided into smaller groups and for some everyone participated together. The entire program was planned with an emphasis on experiences that would leave impressions on the youths that would remain with them. Max from France expressed with bliss, how this trip made his dream come true” Everything I dreamed to see, especially davening at the Kotel, became a reality”. Here is the place to sense the power of Tefila and the significance of davening. As soon as we return, I plan on increasing my Jewish studies”. Noemi from St. Petersberg Russia said” The journey was radiant and vivid, shining with holiness, in comparison with Russia where everything is gray. Here in Israel, everything is alive, full of vitality and immersed in holiness”. Izabelle from Tallinn Estonia commented “I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I was virtuously exposed to the holy sites and interesting places. The holy locations I heard about were considered a dream and now it became a reality. I broadened my horizons in Tefila. Until my arrival I had no ability to daven. Now I know and I’m so happy. I now know how to beseech Hakodosh Baruch Hu.”
RCE’s Chairmen Rabbi Menachem Margolin stated as the journey concluded: ” Presently Antisemitism is growing in Europe. Despite the fact, a group of youths choose to proudly display their Jewishness and desire to keep Mitzvos. We take great pride in them.”
RCE’s Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg said” “It’s so impressive to see afresh, year after year, the positive energy emerging from all the Bat- Mitzva Girls and Bar Mitzvah boys as they approach the Kotel. The experience will be engraved in their heart forever. We are happy to be part of that. I would like to point out that 2 of the counselors assisting on this trip participated 6 years ago as Bat Mitzvah girls. We now see the powerful results of the journey.
Deputy Director General of RCE and head of the “Morasha” division Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker stated: “This is the 10th year of the tour and Baruch Hashem, we clearly see the increase of participants yearning to join the trip. The journey is a complex production tailored to suit every hour for the Bat/Bar Mitzvah children. A week is a short period but still, we manage to expose them to the beauty of Judaism exploring many Jewish sites. They return home full of Jewish pride. It is a great Zchus for us.”
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