Bat Mitzvah

Bat Mitzvah: Hailey Lober – Atlanta Jewish Times

Hailey Brooke Lober of Roswell, the daughter of Michael and Heather Lober and sister of Hannah Lober, was called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah Saturday, Aug. 12, at Temple Beth Tikvah.

She is the granddaughter of Skippy Lober of Merritt Island, Fla., and the late Henry Lober and David and Marilyn Waugh of Jacksonville, Fla.

Hailey is in the eighth grade at Mill Springs Academy, where she has received three Presidents Educational Gold Awards for Outstanding Academic Excellence. She plays fast-pitch softball for the city of Roswell, is on the swim team at Mill Springs and is an equestrienne at Alpha Equestrian. She also enjoys biking, hiking, surfing, skateboarding and kayaking.

Hailey is an active member of the National Charity League, a mother/daughter philanthropic organization. She also is involved in a leadership program at school. Through both programs, Hailey volunteers at such charitable organizations as Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, Atlanta Humane Society, the Drake House, DreamWeavers of Georgia, Foster Care Support Foundation, Furkids, the Fulton County Library, Heavens Gait Therapeutic Riding and the North Metro Miracle League. Her favorite volunteer opportunity is tutoring children after school at STAR House, where she makes a personal connection with every child she tutors, resulting in lasting relationships.

Hailey is also a dedicated environmentalist. As part of her mitzvah projects, she joined the Sierra Club to support research into honeybee colony collapse disorder. She certified her familys yard as a wildlife habitat through the World Wildlife Fund and continues to work toward ecological sustainability.

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Teen son’s sleepy ways irk dad – Virgin Islands Daily News

Dear Harriette: My teenage son just came home from camp, and all he does is sleep. He has been home for a few days now, and literally I cannot get him out of bed until after 12. I know he had a rigorous schedule at camp, but I feel like I am missing out on enjoying time with my boy before school starts up again. Should I be worried? What can I do to entice him to get up? I dont want to resort to punishment, which is my girlfriends strategy. I do want him to get up before midday.

Wake Up, Cleveland

Dear Wake Up: Give your son a week to acclimate to life at home. He is probably grateful to be able to sleep in for a few days. At most camps, children are up and out of their cabins by 7 or 8 a.m. and are on all day and into the evening. His body could be in real need of simple rest.

After a week, you can let him know that it is time to get back into a regular routine. Make it clear that you expect him to get up earlier each day. This will ease him back into a school schedule and also give the two of you time to reconnect. Be aware, though, that as a teenager, he will probably wake up wanting to spend more time engaging with his friends than with you. That is normal. Establish a balance by appealing to his heart. Make it clear to him that you miss him and want to spend some time with him.

Dear Harriette: My daughter has been invited to so many bar and bat mitzvahs that its hard to count. I like that her friends want to include her in everything, but it is pretty expensive to go to all of these events. This is not because there is a charge. Its all the other stuff, starting with new clothes for multiple events. And while there is no expected amount to be given for a gift, it is considered culturally and spiritually appropriate to give money in increments of $18. How can I get my daughter to all of these parties in comfort without going broke?

Being 13, Westchester, N.Y.

Dear Being 13: Your job is to plan it all out. Decide how many dresses you can and will pay for, and let your daughter know she will have to rotate them through the party cycle. Assure her that she will not be the only one wearing a dress more than once. As far as gifts go, do the same. Figure out how many of these events your daughter is likely to attend, to whom she is the closest and what you can afford to give. If you want to stick with the increments of $18, its OK to give $18. For those who are close friends, give more if you can. Make sure your daughter writes a lovely card for each mitzvah. Be sure to donate to the charity of a childs choice if they defer you to a charity rather than a personal gift.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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World’s oldest man dies at 113 – The Herald

Yisrael Kristal

Jerusalem. Israeli Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, certified last year by Guinness World Records as the worlds oldest man, died last Friday aged 113, Israeli media reported.

Since he was an observant Jew, his family could not be reached on Friday evening, the onset of the Jewish sabbath.

Yisrael Kristal . . . died on Friday a month before his 114th birthday, Haaretz daily reported in its online edition.

News site Ynet said he was survived by two children, nine grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.

The World Jewish Congress noted his passing in a brief Twitter statement.Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal was the oldest man in the world. Yisrael passed away today. May his memory be a blessing.

Kristal, originally from Zarnow in what is now Poland, was born on September 15, 1903 three months before the Wright brothers first successful powered aeroplane flight.

Guinness World Records recognised him as the worlds oldest man in March 2016.In September he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah after a century-long delay.

Usually marked at 13 for boys and 12 or 13 for girls a Bat Mitzvah in that case it marks the transition into someone responsible for his or her actions.

Kristal was unable to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in 1916 because his mother had died three months earlier and his father was a soldier in the Russian army at the time of World War I.

My father is religious and has prayed every morning for 100 years, but he has never had his Bar Mitzvah, his daughter Shula Koperstoch told AFP last year.

After World War I, Kristal moved to Lodz where he worked in the family confectionery factory, married and had two children.

But his life was disrupted when the Jewish quarter of the city became a ghetto under Nazi occupation during World War II and Kristal was sent to the infamous Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Around 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished in the camp between 1940 and 1945 before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

His wife and two children died but Kristal survived, weighing just 37 kg at the end of the war.

He then moved to Israel, where he opened a sweet shop.

Guinness World Records website said that on receiving his certificate at his home in the northern Israeli city of Haifa last year Kristal offered no explanation for his longevity.

I dont know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why, he said. AFP.

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The stitched Torah: Toronto tapestry project inspires volunteers from around the world – National Post

ByAlison Broverman

An agnostic Jewish woman. A Mormon fire chief. A Muslim immigrant from Turkey. A Mother Superior at a church in the English countryside. These are just a few of the hundreds of people who have lent their fingers to Toronto textile artist Temma Gentles ambitious project Torah: Stitch by Stitch. As the name would suggest, the goal is to cross stitch by hand the first five books of the Bible.

There are over 300,000 letters in the Torah. To write them out is considered a mitzvah and it can take up to a year and a half for a scribe (or sofer) to complete the task by hand. To cross stitch each character takes even longer.

The five books are divided into 1,464 sections. Volunteers are sent a kit containing a piece of high quality canvas and enough black thread to complete their assigned portion. This is the best canvas in the world, the best threads in the world, says Gentles. Theyre really archival materials.

Each section contains four verses. I wanted the stitchers to be aware, as they progressed from verse to verse, that they were honouring, at least in their head, one of the matriarchs Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah, explains Gentles. The only thing weve added thats not in the Torah is the punctuation, the colons at the end of a verse, so theyre aware of when theyre moving from verse three to verse four. But otherwise it has to be absolutely word perfect if its not perfect, we correct it.

(Gentles is proud, however, that most of the sections that have been returned to her have been mostly correct.)

Stitchers have to commit to returning the finished portion within six months (a volunteer working with Gentles is the unofficial noodge, who does their best to keep the stitchers on deadline).

The first book, Genesis, has been assembled and is hanging on display at the Congregation Darchei Noam in Toronto until December. (Exodus and Leviticus have also been fully stitched, but have yet to be assembled for display. And the project is still accepting volunteers to finish stitching portions from Numbers and Deuteronomy.)

Gentles is shocked and delighted that the project has attracted so many far-flung volunteers. I thought, Maybe 30 of my friends will sign up, she says. Fortunately, shortly after she had conceived the project, Hadassah magazine profiled her, and she was able to advertise that she was looking for stitchers. It was a four-line quote, you know, looking for stitchers, and it went viral.

Ultimately, stitching the Torah feels like an appropriately biblical activity, lengthy and meditative. And the activity has had a meaningful impact on the volunteers who signed up to stitch. Gentles has received countless messages from her stitchers around the world, many discussing how moving and spiritual they found the experience of stitching their Torah portion. A woman named Amy signed up to stitch after spending most of her life ignoring her Jewish heritage and avoiding going to synagogue. She found the experience so spiritually transformative that Gentles received an invitation to Amys adult bat mitzvah. And with so many volunteers from other faiths, Torah: Stitch by Stitch has become a meaningful cross-cultural project as well.

At Darchei Noam, the display is visually impressive, with tapestries lining the walls of more than one space. But its not until you get up close that you see the details that make the project so inspiring. In addition to the verses, each portion of stitching has an allotment of free space where stitchers can include their own designs. Often these feature illustrations of the stories from the respective sections for example, Josephs coat of many colours, or Noahs ark and pairs of animals. Stitchers are also encouraged to include a decorative border, and some people have thrown in little visual puns, or secret references that are meaningful to them.

Currently, only Genesis has been assembled and is available for viewing (along with a few sections from Deuteronomy, which were stitched as an act of faith that the project would be completed eventually), but the project is ongoing, and Gentles has high hopes that the completed tapestries will eventually be displayed and toured to museums around the world.

For more information on how to sign up to stitch, or to visit the exhibit at Darchei Noam, visit

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The stitched Torah: Toronto tapestry project inspires volunteers from around the world – National Post

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Candy Gigi Presents: Becky Rimmer’s Bat Mitzvah! – The List

It’s Becky Rimmer’s Bat Mitzvah. She’s got the sparkling rhinestone frock, 90s tunes on the decks and everything’s going to be great. But only if her mum Gaye stops crying, dad Mervyn quits sleeping with men, and her ‘boyfriend’ Benjamin actually turns up. As we’ve come to expect of Candy Gigi, this is an absolute riot (almost literally) of a show and, as ever, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart as she pushes interactive clowning to its extremes, way beyond the comfort zone.

There’s plenty of audience participation (this reviewer made a hash of ‘performing’ as both Becky’s mum and her hated friend Sarah) as Gigi / Rimmer bullies all of us into doing something. That said, there’s a weird camaraderie of us all being in this together. No matter how terrifying she is, we still want to get involved.

There are plenty shocking moments to be enjoyed this year: impertinent questions of a downstairs nature, botched surgical procedures and a lot of fake blood. Plus Gigi has brought a car-full of inventive mad props both old and new; there are naked suits, merkins with penises attached, plus sheets with holes, and something pink and fluffy with eyes: we’ll leave you to guess what that might represent.

What takes this a notch above Candy’s previous work is that in among the gore and the grotesque, the most monstrous of whom is the spoilt party girl herself, there’s a surprisingly poignant depiction of adolescence. This is particularly evident in the songs about an impatience for her first period to arrive. Gigi captures something of that delicate age where girls begin to transition into women, yearning to grow up yet still being little girls in so many ways. Magnificently insane.

Heroes @ The Hive, until 27 Aug (not 13 & 14, 22), 1.15pm, 5 or Pay What You Want.

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Help Send a JYEP Family’s Daughter to Seminary – Jewish Link of New Jersey

The post high school gap year in Israel is known to be a transformative experience of spiritual development and growth. I believe spending the gap year in Israel is an invaluable experience for both young men and women. It is a time of personal growth and self-actualization, said Debby Rapps, director of the Jewish Youth Encounter Program, a program that offers Judaic schooling to Jewish children (most of whom attend public school) who want to increase their Jewish knowledge.

A JYEP students sister, AR (she wishes to remain anonymous), recently began a journey of growth in her own spirituality, which culminated in her wish to attend seminary. Her religious journey started when, after years of attending public school, she made the brave decision to enter a Jewish day school, selecting the Abraham Joshua Heschel School as the school that would help her connect to her Jewish roots. With her supportive parents by her side, she decided to explore and learn more about the Jewish culture. Describing her first year in a Jewish school as a massive exploration, AR told The Jewish Link that the new practices in which she engaged (such as prayer and learning Judaic studies) unveiled an entirely new future for her.

At age 15, AR was ready to celebrate her bat mitzvah, which had been overlooked three years prior. It was a mutual decision of AR and her parents for her to have a bat mitzvah, as her parents realized how important this milestone is in a young Jewish girls life. The bat mitzvah, which took place in Israel, was especially meaningful in that ARs parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had never had bar/bat mitzvahs of their own since the family had lived in the former Soviet Union at a time of heightened Jewish persecution. As high school continued, religion became a staple in ARs life. After exploring different denominations within Judaism, she ultimately found her home in Orthodoxy.

With a love of learning Torah, Talmud and Jewish philosophy, AR recognized that the more she learned about Judaism, the greater connection she had to it. When asked why she wants to attend seminary, she gave several primary reasons. She is seeking a greater breadth of Jewish knowledge and, through that, she hopes to gain an increased spiritual connection. In addition, she noted, I think it is tremendously meaningful to be surrounded by a community of women who are also so devoted to living and learning Judaism as I am. She added that it would be an incredible opportunity to live and grow in Israel for a year. Despite her wish to attend seminary, there was one obstacle preventing her from doing so: finances.

As AR continues to embark on this journey, she wants to go to seminary so she can fill the gap of knowledge that has held her back in her growth process. Because she was not raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, she feels that there is a certain absence of knowledge that, when not attained, makes practicing particular customs very difficult. The seminary that she believes can help her fill this gap is Nishmat. To her, Nishmat strikes a balance of what she is looking for in a seminary. While Nishmat allows for Israeli immersion, it also offers a rigorous learning program with English options. Also, Nishmat is located in Jerusalem, the perfect place for her to meet people who share similar passions.

AR made a point to note that she could not have travelled this road without the people who have motivated and inspired her to continue. Her mother, mentors, first-ever Limudei Kodesh teacher in school and rabbi all helped her hone that passion for discovering and growing. She highlighted her mother in particular since, although the concept of Orthodoxy is foreign to her, she has continued to support and encourage her daughter.

As AR picked up more religious customs, she discovered a strong connection to two mitzvot: tefillah and Shabbat. When she was first exposed to tefillah, she found it to be like no other experience. She realizes tefillah is a platform to communicate with God, to reflect, to be grateful and to be hopeful. Although she comes from a non-Shabbat-observing home, she developed a meaningful connection to Shabbat, not only because of its biblical and historical context, but also because of what it gives to hera day to think, reflect and relax.

When asked about ARs journey, Debby Rapps commented, I know, just from seeing her passion and observing all that she has accomplished in a short amount of time, that she should certainly be encouraged to grow in her spirituality, and anything we can do to help her meet this goal will certainly be rewarded many times over.

AR is extremely humbled by the donations that have come in thus far, and appreciative to everyone who has contributed, but noted that she is still shy of her goal. Often, the Three Weeks and Tisha BAv inspire many to work on themselves spiritually. Tisha BAv may be over, but what remains are the opportunities to help others and better serve God. Helping AR attend seminary is one of those opportunities. To help send AR to seminary, visit her gofundme page at

Chani Shulman, a rising sophomore at Manhattan High School for Girls, is a summer intern at The Jewish Link.

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Help Send a JYEP Family’s Daughter to Seminary – Jewish Link of New Jersey

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Counterpoint Israel – The Jewish Standard

Yeshiva Universitys Counterpoint Israel Program kicked off its 12th consecutive year with a communal bar mitzvah ceremony in the Old City of Jerusalem for 13 boys from the development town of Kiryat Malachi.

The immersive service-learning program, which ran from July 4 to 24, brought 30 handpicked YU students including five from Bergen County to run programs helping 200 underprivileged young Israelis in Arad, Dimona, and Kiryat Malachi shore up their self-esteem as well their English competency and computer literacy.

Counterpoint Israel serves teens from impoverished homes, and the program has become an educational lifeline for the campers and their families, said Gabi Sackett, director of the Counterpoint Israel Program. While many of the young women in the program had celebrated a bat mitzvah over the last year, many of the incoming male campers had skipped over this very important milestone in their lives.

The bar mitzvah event was organized together with Afikim, an Israeli nonprofit group that works to enrich the lives of families in need in Kiryat Malachi.

We saw this as an opportunity to connect the campers with their Jewish roots and lay the groundwork for responsible and motivated Jewish adulthood, Ms. Sackett said. It was really the perfect way to start the summer, because it put an emphasis on Jewish identity and education.

Each Counterpoint Israel camp is staffed by 10 Yeshiva University undergraduates who work together as educational teams to mentor the Israeli campers and teach them about Jewish history, heritage, and culture through trips, activities, teambuilding exercises, and English reading and writing. They also lead workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance, and sports.

Rafael, left, and Solomon Anapolle at Counterpoint in Arad.

For the first time in Counterpoints history, all the campers received continuing-education credit for their participation from the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Michael Elbaz, 23, of Teaneck and Liat Clark, 20, of Bergenfield were teaching partners in Arad.

Michael and I were thrown right into the intensity of the program from the beginning, Ms. Clark said. On the first day of camp, one of the girls in our English class got a call from her mom that her grandfather had passed away.

We decided that it would be a nice gesture to make a shiva visit to her family, even though we had just met. The family was touched, and our camper felt so special. The camper was incredibly shy on the first day of camp, but after we visited her she was a different person and she only grew closer to us from then on.

It has been unbelievable for us to be part of a program where the counselors work well past the 3 p.m. end of camp and go beyond what the expectations of them are on paper, Ms. Clark added.

Mr. Elbaz said that one of the highlights of the program for him was color war.

Michael Elbaz of Teaneck discusses anEnglish assignment with campers in Counterpoints summer camp in Arad.

What we thought was a failed attempt at teaching our class a team cheer in English was, much to our surprise, a huge success, he said. We only realized after class, at the beginning of our soccer competition, that the campers had been listening all along.

They gathered around us before the game, putting their arms around our shoulders and yelling with enthusiasm the chant that we had repeated several times in the classroom, falling on what we thought were deaf ears. At that point we realized how engaged the campers had been all this time, and the great effect we had had on them, and the greater effect they had on us.

The other Bergen County Counterpoint counselors were Rafael and Solomon Anapolle of Teaneck and Jonathan (Yoni) Mintz of Fair Lawn.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander of Teaneck, YUs vice president for university and community life and the founder of Counterpoint Israel, said the program is intended to break down the barriers that divide diaspora and Israeli Jewry.

He added that the program gives select students opportunities to take their Torah and academic knowledge and engage in service to the Jewish people and humanity, as well as an opportunity to realize their inner talents and the potential to make a difference.

Applicants go through a formal interview process. We choose young men and women who we believe wish to give back and will create a cohesive team, Rabbi Brander said. External evaluations have shown that this summer experience is quite successful. He believes the program remains relevant even 12 years after its founding, given that life in Israeli development towns has not improved much.

The South is a region of Israel that is still slightly detached from the rest of the country, he added. Often young people who live in development towns have little enthusiasm to be part of the larger Israeli society; they feel left out. Our goal is to allow them to take a second look at themselves, to bring to the summer camp young people who have gone through our program and have become productive members of society.

This years counselors in the Arad camp Michael Elbaz is second from left in the bottom row, Liat Clark is second from left in the top row, and Yoni Mintz is far right in the bottom row.

Mr. Mintz, a 23-year-old recent graduate of Yeshiva College, was head counselor of the camp in Arad. What we accomplished in those short three weeks was so much more than what we would have ever expected, he said. This was my second time participating on Counterpoint; last time being a counselor in Kiryat Malachi and Dimona. This new position made my experience drastically different.

In the past, my responsibilities included prepping lessons to work with my individual class and making sure that the campers are involved and enjoying activities after English classes. As a head counselor, I made sure counselors were prepared for their lessons, all supplies were available, that everybody received what they wanted for lunch, discipline issues were taken care of and, of course planning night activities for my counselors, among many other duties.

It was amazing to see how invested and hard-working my counselors were. I recall having several conversations with counselors past 10:30 p.m. in which they asked me for advice on how to interact with certain specific campers for various reasons including discipline or mental health issues.

Mr. Mintz recalled at one point a very reserved camper mentioned that she was having a dance recital after one of the summer camp trips.

This was the second year that her dance recital was the night of one of the trips, he said. Last year, she hardly had any friends from camp present at her performance as they were too tired to attend. My entire staff agreed that they would not let that happen again. After returning back from a long and tiring trip day, the counselors and I delayed eating our dinners for another two hours to observe our campers performance and join in her celebration.

After her dance performance, we greeted her with a bouquet of flowers. When the camper saw us, she was overcome with emotion and had a huge smile on her face. For the remainder of camp, similar to the other campers, she seemed much happier and was less reserved.

Stories like this have shown me that little actions can have a huge impact. People want to feel loved and cared about. If we give a little more of ourselves and go the extra distance, our actions can change the world, one person at a time.

Counterpoint Israel 2017 was supported by the Jewish Agency, Partnership2gether, Neals Fund in memory of Neal Dublinsky, Sharon and Avram Blumenthal, the Gamson Family, in memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson, and the municipalities of Arad, Dimona, and Kiryat Malachi.

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Nearly 100-year-old Longmont building being transformed into wedding venue – Longmont Times-Call

Christopher Chittick, of Treck Electric, fastens a cover on an electrical box on Tuesday at the St. Vrain, a future wedding venue at 635 Third Ave., Longmont. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

An old building in downtown Longmont is getting new life as a wedding venue.

Owners of The St. Vrain are working diligently to put the final touches on 635 Third Ave. to capture the tail end of Colorado’s nuptial season.

The nearly 100-year-old structure is receiving new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, an overhauled roof and skylight, bathrooms upstairs and down, an elevator and two staircases. Outside, the back of the property will be converted to an urban courtyard, complete with fountains, furniture, turf, a garden walkway and room for a wedding of about 150 people.

In the walkout basement, original sliding barn-style doors cover a “first look nook” next to the bridal quarters. A new floor was poured to make the groom’s room to cover up the existing oil pit a remnant of the building’s first use as an auto dealership service garage.

All told, close to $1 million will be poured into the facility. Footing the bill are St. Vrain’s proprietors, Annie and Mark Danielson, and J.D. Parker, who owns the property.

“We scoured the Front Range for a building,” Annie Danielson said. “This one was perfect.”

This is not the Danielsons’ first go at preserving history. In their hometown of Trinidad, the couple was part of a movement to reinvigorate downtown, and ran a retail store and restaurant from a historic building in the district.

The plot at 635 Third was originally home to the White Elephant Livery, according to city documents, built prior to 1890 and lasting through at least 1918.

Those same documents put the birth of the current structure at 1923, home of Dodge dealership Craig-Baker Inc. Several car companies cycled through until after World War II, then a spate of agricultural implement businesses and a sheet metal manufacturer.

St. Vrain Glass and Upholstering took over in the late ’60s and remained through 2002. The most recent business to root itself there was consignment shop Serendipity, active for a decade beginning in 2006.

The St. Vrain, 635 Third Ave., Longmont, will be open for its first wedding Oct. 7. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

Danielson has been hosting brides- and grooms-to-be for the last few months, dodging debris and construction materials and selling the potential of a quaint industrial space in a thriving downtown.

“It was freezing in here; there was no heat,” Danielson recalled. “I felt like I was tap dancing to share the vision of what it was going to be.”

The first couple that toured booked a date: Oct. 14, the venue’s second wedding. So far, 11 weddings, one bat mitzvah, a gala and four corporate events are booked in the space that can accommodate about 250 for a wedding. Movable walls that double as chair storage can divide the 6,500-square-foot upstairs into separate reception and ceremony spaces.

“It really can be configured to the specific use,” Danielson said. “I can’t imagine what’s going to be in here.”

The venue’s first wedding, on Oct. 7, will bring a touch of the past into the present. The mother of the bride was once an employee at St. Vrain Glass and Upholstering.

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, or

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How not to plan a b’nai mitzvah project – Jewish United Fund

In 2005, the JUF Tween department decided to highlight the mitzvah project from my bat mitzvah. Nearly 12 years later, I work for the same department at JUF, running teen volunteering programs and helping families find their own mitzvah projects. For my bat mitzvah, I collected 1,000 books to send to a small, developing town in Israel. These books were used to kick off an English language library in one of the local junior high schools. It was a worthwhile and meaningful project, but not one I would recommend to anyone else.

Looking back, some of the most helpful advice I give out to families was taken from my own project — mostly, what not to do.

Here’s how not to create a b’nai mitzvah project:

DON’T ship a collection to Israel

It is extremely expensive to ship items to Israel (often more than the value of items being sent). According to my mother, each box of books cost more than $50 to ship! Once in Israel they are processed through customs, often incurring a duty fee or tariff. Customs is located near the Ben-Gurion airport, which means the organizations must send a staff person and often must pay a significant fee to pick up the items.

DO your research

There are so many ways to support Israel through a b’nai mitzvah project, and I recommend raising money to support an organization that you care about. If you want to do a collection drive, think locally! There are so many wonderful organizations in Chicago that would be happy to take your books, sports equipment, canned goods, or other collected or crafted items.

DON’T be a hassle

My mitzvah project was a family affair. While I sorted books and packed boxes, my parents schlepped the books, boxes, and myself around Chicago. They deposited checks, and covered shipping fees when monetary donations slowed. In the end, my parents had generously worked as many hours as I had on the project.

DO thank your team

The old saying goes, “the more the merrier,” and that goes especially for tikkun olam (repairing the world). Your mitzvah project can bring your community together for volunteering, collecting, or fundraising, and the people in your life can be incredible resources to help you and your project succeed. Explain to them why this particular project or organization is important to you, and make sure to show your gratitude for the time and energy they put in to help you complete your project. Don’t forget to thank them often!

DON’T get overwhelmed

I collected over 1,000 books to send to Israel, but I worried about my project constantly. I spent more time concerned about reaching my goal then I did preparing for my bat mitzvah, and I lost sight of the reason for performing a mitzvah project in the first place. Though I eventually met my goal, I was no longer having any fun.

DO your best

Your b’nai mitzvah project should be a lot of fun. Think big and set goals for yourself, but make sure you enjoy yourself. Part of becoming a Jewish adult is taking on responsibility, and your tikkun olam project is a great way of showing you understand that. Make the most of your experience, and know that finishing one mitzvah project will lead you to the next.

Now what?

We want to help you plan an amazing b’nai mitzvah project! Check out JUF’s B’nai Mitzvah Tikkun Olam Manualto simplify the mitzvah project process and to create a lasting love of volunteering and tikkun olam. The guide has over 100 ways for your teen to make a difference for their b’nai mitzvah. And keep a lookout for a new and improved version of the manual this fall!

Ariel Rosen is senior associate for Teen Volunteering and Engagement at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.

How not to plan a b’nai mitzvah project – Jewish United Fund

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Navasky Jewish Explorers: A modern approach to religious school – The Weston Forum

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The eyes of most Jewish children tend to glaze over when you ask if theyd like to go to Hebrew School.

They envision a typical religious school where they sit around and recite Hebrew prayers.

But the reaction youll get from children attending the Navasky Jewish Explorers Program at Congregation Beth El-Norwalk is quite different.

The Navasky Jewish Explorers Program at Congregation Beth El-Norwalk offers a fun, interactive religious school experience for students.

This is not your grandfathers religious school, said Al Treidel, director of the program. This is a Hebrew school for the 21st century. We want children to feel comfortable and valued and we work hard to make the learning experience fun while creating a community of active learners, he said.

Navasky takes a modern, hands-on approach to learning and has programs for children ages 3 to 13. The atmosphere is more like a camp than a religious school. Children have a good time while cultivating a love of Judaism.

Every year my kids get to do something exciting and memorable at Navasky Explorers, said parent Sharon DeFala. One grade did a simulated living wax museum during the Congregational Kiddush. In sixth grade, they did a PowerPoint presentation about the Torah portion for their upcoming Bar and Bat Mitzvah. It really brought the content alive for them, she said.

Navasky Jewish Explorers has been educating Jewish children in Fairfield County since 1936. It is an egalitarian, progressive Hebrew school and welcomes interfaith and LGBTQ families.

The school focuses on teaching children Jewish history, bible, customs and ceremonies along with prayer and its meaning.

Childrens love of technology is embraced. They have access to iPads and a custom website to help them learn prayers at their own pace. Students in grades 3-7 focus on learning Shabbat prayers, while 6th graders learn Torah trope to begin Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation.

Students can access any prayer they are studying and chant along with a Beth El member electronically.

For pre-schoolers, one Sunday a month, Navasky offers a program called Ktanim, which gives children who attend a secular daycare or preschool a taste of Judaism and introduction to the holidays. Ktanim and kindergarten are open to both Beth El families and unaffiliated families.

The schools modern approach is paying off. Parents are happy to see their children actually enjoying Hebrew School.

I loved watching how excited my first grader was at the model Seder the kids were singing and dancing and genuinely excited to celebrate Passover, said Lindsey Rossen.

Our goal is to create a real family of learners, and have kids learn the meaning of prayer so they can make their own connections, Treidel said.

Located at Congregation Beth El-Norwalk, 109 East Ave., Norwalk, Navasky Jewish Explorers Program is currently accepting applications for the fall. To learn more about class schedules call 203-838-2710, email Al Treidel, director of education, at [emailprotected] or visit

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Navasky Jewish Explorers: A modern approach to religious school – The Weston Forum

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