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Bat mitzvah age girls decorate Shabbat candlestick holders during the Rabbinical Center of Europe trip to Israel, March 2019.(Photo by: Courtesy)
Unaffiliated youth inspired on bar/bat mitzvah trip to Israel
Unaffiliated Jewish youth were treated to a special tour of Israel to mark their bar and bat mitzvah birthdays, marking their journey into adulthood.
Russia seems very gray to Naomi from St. Petersburg, but she will be bringing back a pair of colorful Shabbat candlestick holders she decorated herself on her recent trip to Israel with other bar and bat mitzvah age children from Europe. The tour of Israel was sponsored by the Rabbinical Council of Europe (RCE) and culminated in a special ceremony in Slammer, where girls decorated their Shabbat candlesticks traditionally used to light candles every Friday evening by Jewish women. They also each received a silver pendant, which Sarah from Budapest, Hungary said was "special and moving."

Meanwhile, the boys received tefillin, which they wrapped on their arm and heads for the first time at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's historic Old City.

Bar mitzvah boys from Europe at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the Rabbinical Council of Europe.
One hundred and twenty kids from various countries participated in the trip, which included jeeps tours in the Golan Heights and camel rides in the Negev. 
Rabbi Yossi Bainhaker, deputy director-general of the Belgium-based RCE stated, “with the current climate in Europe, it doesn’t matter if you’re observant or totally secular, there’s a real fear of antisemitism and violent attacks." Many of the participants had a minimal Jewish education, but regardless of past or future level of observance, Bainhaker said, "an event like this gives the next generation confidence in their Jewish identity and will give them the tools to say – I’m a Jew, and I have a right to be a Jew, this is my tradition. Coming from this place of confidence, they can create a conversation to combat those who attack with negative preconceptions.” 

Chairman of the RCE Rabbi Menachem Margolin stated, “in a time of growing antisemitism in Europe, a group of Jewish youths is choosing to proudly celebrate their Jewishness and the observing of mitzvot (Torah commandment)."
Naomi added, “this is such a colorful journey for me, as opposed to my home in Russia... in Israel, I feel like I’m truly becoming alive.”
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