Israeli orphans celebrate their bar mitzvah, or coming of age, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 15, 2024. (Photo by Mendy Kornet) (Photo by Mendy Kornet)
orphan bar mitzvah

Volunteers helped the boys put on their tefillin and dance at the Western Wall to celebrate their coming of age.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

The event was nearly canceled during Iran’s missile attack, but 122 Israeli orphans celebrated their bar mitzvah at the Western Wall on Monday.

“This year’s bar mitzvah celebration is certainly different than any other year, but it reminds us that we need to be here for families in need more than ever,” said Rabbi Zalman Duchman, director of development at Colel Chabad, one of Israel’s oldest charity organizations.

“The painfully large number of orphaned children all across Israel need to know that life will go on for them, and they deserve to have happy days like these,” Duchman said.

A bar mitzvah celebrates the coming of age for Jewish men at the age of 13.

“I don’t have a husband and my two older children live abroad so I was forced to recognize that I wouldn’t be able to give Refael the type of celebration and experience he deserves for becoming a bar mitzvah,” said Gila, whose husband died of cancer.

“I am so deeply grateful to everyone at Colel Chabad who thought to make this happen, and we can promise that this is a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives,” she added.

Volunteers helped the boys put on their tefillin and dance at the Western Wall to celebrate their coming of age. Each child was given tefillin (phylacteries) and new clothing. After the event, the boys and their families were treated to a festive meal and concert along with gifts.

A similar bat mitzvah event for girls turning 12 was held in March.

Colel Chabad, runs a network of soup kitchens, food banks and daycare centers, and its programs provide support to widows, orphans and immigrants.

On Saturday night, Iran launched more than 320 drones and missiles at Israel. According to the Israel Defense Forces, 99% were intercepted by the American, Jordanian British, French and Israeli air forces or by Israeli air defense systems.

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