The JNF USA Sunshine Mission, led by renowned TV and theatre actor Hal Linden, visited American Independence Park in the Judean Hills this week and attended a moving ceremony there. Hal Linden also serves as a spokesman for JNF USA, and he has been actively involved in the organization for the last fifteen years. "Israel was always a part of my life," he said.
At the ceremony, Linden unveiled a plaque in honor of his grandson Justin, who was celebrating his bar mitzvah. The plaque is on the special bar and bat mitzvah wall created by KKL-JNF in the forest several years ago, in order to recognize bar mitzvah boys and bat mitzvah girls who adopted Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. On the wall, which is designed in the form of a Torah scroll, the names of the bar and bat mitzvahs are engraved next to the names of the children who perished in the Holocaust and did not live to reach bar or bat mitzvah age.
And so, right near Justin’s name, was the name of Israel Boernsztein, who was killed when he was only a child. “Finally, little Israel, may he rest in peace, is having a bar mitzvah,” said Linden to everyone present. Linden spoke with emotion about having been to Yad Vashem with his entire family when he was last in Israel. After that trip, Justin said he would like to celebrate his bar mitzvah, although he had previously never shown any particular interest in his Jewish roots.
“A bar mitzvah is a way for the community to tell the child that he or she has grown up, and that the time has come for him or her to take responsibility,” said Linden. “No less, however, it is a way for the son or daughter to tell the community that he or she wishes to be part of it.”
Linden was delighted with the celebrations, as was the attentive audience. One of his guests, Melinda Wolf, hugged him and said, “This is the real you, not a part you are playing.”
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