On Shabbat four Bus 979 participants, Alex, Aaron, Katie and Amanda, all became Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Each publicly stood before their Jewish community and were called to the Torah with an aliyah (the parsha was Vayera) and then made a public declaration to the Jewish people about why they chose this opportunity. Here are two reflections on the experience.
Before going on Birthright I found out about the opportunity to have a Bat Mitzvah and I was immediately interested, but not completely sure I was ready. I attended Hebrew School up until it was time for me to have my Bat Mitzvah, but I backed out at the last minute because I wasn’t sure I was ready to make a strong religious commitment.
I didn’t have any expectations at all before coming to Israel, which is part of why I wasn’t sure I’d be ready to make that same commitment I’d backed out of nine years earlier. From the first full day of the trip, exploring just a small part of what Israel had to offer, I automatically felt a connection with the land, the people and most importantly, the culture. After participating in the group’s meaningful conversations and immersing myself in Judaism, I made the decision to have a Bat Mitzvah. I thought I’d be upset not having my family with me, but the group had become my family on this trip. Everybody gave their support, and even the visiting soldiers offered to help me with my Hebrew pronunciation.
Having my Bat Mitzvah with Jerusalem in the backdrop and the supporting faces of Bus 979 in front of me completed my experience. I may not have been the usual age of a Bat Mitzvah girl, but Birthright gave me the necessary preparations and I’m glad I waited.
Amanda Martin, Hofstra University
When I heard about the opportunity to have a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem I pondered that it might be a good idea. Then, I thought about it and didn’t really feel as if it would be right because I didn’t feel too connected with being Jewish. At the same time, there was a little voice in the back of my head telling me to consider this once in a lifetime opportunity.
When we were staying on the Sea of Galilee and the topic came up again of having a Bar Mitzvah, I suddenly got this strange unexplainable strong emotion that told me I had to do it. This was something I had to do. All of a sudden I felt like I needed and wanted to have a strong connection to being Jewish; I wanted that to have the religious and spiritual connection with being Bar Mitzvah’d. It was something that became very important to me.
I was not raised religiously at all. When I was younger we sometimes lit Hanukkah candles, celebrated Passover and did the typical Jewish things…besides going to Temple. In my entire life before I came to Israel, I went to Temple once for my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. I never thought that I would want to be Bar Mitzvah’d and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do so in the holiest city in the world.
Alex Romano, George Mason University