Video by Eli Mandelbaum
One hundred and thirteen orphans from all over Israel celebrated their bar mitzva ceremonies together with their relatives on Monday, at a giant event in Jerusalem. The humanitarian arm of Chabad, Colel Chabad hosted the event, which began with a ceremony at the Western Wall and continued at the International Convention Center. The initiative aims to give the orphaned children a memorable bar mitzva that will aid them in their rehabilitation following the family tragedies they have undergone.
Rabbi Sholom Duchman, the director of Colel Chabad explains that the main figure of a bar mitzva is usually the father, thus these boys would have been embarrassed to have had had their bar mitzva at the synagogue without their father; however, this collective experience brings them together with other children in the same boat as them.
Each boy received a gift of his own set of tefillin, a kippa and a white shirt, and was called up to recite the blessing on the Torah, with some reading the Torah on their own. Festivities later continued at the International Convention Center where the boys had studio pictures taken with their families and enjoyed a feast of meats and fish.
This is the seventh year that a bar mitzva mega event for orphans was held - an initiative that evolved from a project originally geared toward olim (new immigrants) from the FSU. MK Yair Shamir (Likud - Yisrael Beiteinu) was among an array of officials present at the event, and he noted that his father, late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir had attended the first event held for 1000 Russian olim and he was continuing the tradition.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan attended the celebration alongside a host of other MKs.
Bar mitzva boy Yehuda Habernas of Kfar Adumim told The Jerusalem Post that his father died of Cancer six years ago, and he appreciates being with other children who understand his position and don't treat him differently. "They know you're a normal person - it's not that you're special or something," he said.