At a moving bar mitzvah ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, 15 underprivileged boys read from the Torah and put on tefillin, as is customary during this traditional Jewish rite of passage.
A group of 15 bar mitzvah boys from underprivileged families on Monday celebrated their special occasion at the Kotel, Western Wall, to the sounds of traditional klezmer music and upbeat African drums.
The municipality of Rishon Letzion and the regional religious council financed the trip for the families, who would have otherwise been unable to afford the bar mitzvah trip to the Western Wall.
The Mayor of Rishon Letzion, Raz Kinstlich, talked about the importance of the bar mitzvah ceremony as part of the Jewish way of life.
“There are certain stepping stones everyone must experience,” he said, adding that “reading the Torah is not just a religious custom, it is a part of the Jewish identity, and the feeling of belonging that every child wants to be a part of. I met these children and saw their longing to be like everyone else; it is certainly very touching.”
The idea to sponsor the bar mitzvah trip began when a Rishon Letzion resident spoke with Deputy Mayor Avi Chaim, who suggested they look into the possibility of helping underprivileged families celebrate properly. The municipality agreed and began gathering families who met the criteria. The children then met with the Mayor, learned about the Torah reading and how to put on tefillin.
The trip to the Western Wall was emotional for many of the children, especially for one, whose father left several years ago and has since been raised by his mother and grandparents. They said his grandfather dreamed of his grandson celebrating his bar mitzvah, but passed away last year and did not have a chance to take part in the celebrations.
Deputy Mayor Chaim said “it feels great to bring these children to the Western Wall and celebrate their bar mitzvah. I would like to thank everyone who took part in making sure this program succeeded, and most of all, the Mayor.”
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