After Copenhagen terror attack, Danish girl celebrates disrupted bat mitzva in Jerusalem

Hannah Bentow was celebrating at the Danish capital’s central synagogue last month when a gunman shot an Israeli-Dane security guard stationed at the entrance, forcing party-goers to run and hide.

March 15, 2015 19:13
2 minute read.
denmark israel

An Israeli flag at a memorial for the victims of the deadly attacks in front of the synagogue in Krystalgade in Copenhagen. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A young woman whose bat mitzva celebration in Copenhagen was interrupted by gunfire last month was given the opportunity for a redo last Thursday, when a group of philanthropists came together to fly her and her family to Israel for a celebration in Jerusalem.

Hannah Bentow was celebrating at the Danish capital’s central synagogue last month when Omar El-Hussein shot and killed security guard Dan Uzan, an Israeli-Dane stationed at the entrance, forcing party goers to run and hide in the basement.

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“As a Jew, regardless of your level of observance, a bat mitzva is a major milestone in a girl’s life, and to have this major event destroyed by a terrorist attack is something that can and will cause severe psychological damage, especially at such a young age,” said Josh Salmon, a Toronto resident who helped organize Hannah’s bat mitzva redux.

“Understandably so, the girl was devastated and said to her mother, ‘I wish I didn’t have a bat mitzva; then Dan [Uzan] would still be alive,’” Salmon told The Jerusalem Post. “Hearing about this, myself, the Dan Hotel and a couple of other private family foundations got together and took Hannah and her family to Israel for a week to give them a vacation and to give her a bat mitzva party to give her some good memories.”

Aside from the party, Hannah also went to Eilat to swim with dolphins in a program designed for victims of trauma, he added.

The Dan Hotel Group paid for the family’s accommodations, while Salmon, Mike Sweica of the Sweica Family Foundation, and “basically a group of young philanthropists” took care of the other costs, he added.

Mita Bentow, Hannah’s mother, told the Post that Salmon had “read an article about Hannah and thought that she should have a second go at a bat mitzva party,” and contacted the family.

“We decided to say, ‘Yes, thank you,’ to this amazing offer, and it’s been overwhelming and fantastic,” she added.

Asked how her daughter was handling the trauma, Mita Bentow said Hannah was “initially very – for lack of a better word – cool about it” and understood that her loss was not as large as that of Uzan family.

“But of course when you are 12,” she continued, “it does matter that forever and ever, everyone will remember Hannah’s bat mitzva not for something good, not for what she said in her speech, not for the fun presents or the speeches but for that event, and to be associated with that when you are 12, that was quite a heavy burden for her.”

The media attention was especially hard, she added.

Speaking through her mother, Hannah said that she felt “fantastic” to be in Israel and that she “love[s] being here.”

“For our family there is no getting over, there is getting on,” Mita explained. The family will try to “do our best to live up to...the memory of Dan, who died protecting us.”

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