When I was growing up, almost every Jewish event contained an element of solidarity with Soviet Jewry. (Remember the metal armbands with the name of Soviet Jewish dissidents? We callled them “Soviet Jewelry.”) Most prominently, the bar and bat mitzvah twinning project, in which a boy or girl reaching the age of majority would acknowledge a Russian child of his or her own age, and incorporate a mention of that child into his or her bar/bat mitzvah speech.

For the most part, the Soviet Jewry crisis is past. But children celebrating their passage into adulthood can now remember other children their own age, the ones who never lived to be called to the Torah in acknowledgement of their maturity.

According to their website:

Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project offers an invitation to children preparing for bar/bat mitzvah to connect with the memory of children lost in the Holocaust before they could be called to the Torah.

The Project provides the student and the bar/bat mitzvah teacher with the name of a lost child, information about him/her, and suggestions for simple acts of remembrance:

* doing mitzvot b’shem (in the name of the child)
* mentioning the child in a dvar Torah or speech from the bimah
* taking on the mitzvah of saying Kaddish
* lighting a yahrzeit candle yearly, etc.

The project has been reviewed and accepted by educators of all denominations, and there is no cost to participate. Program materials are available here.

May the memories of those who perished be for a blessing.

(Cross-posted to My Urban Kvetch.)

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

11 Comments

  • Oy, this does not make me happy.

    I don’t mean that we shouldn’t impart this knowledge to children, but it is so full of sadness and equates a rite of passage that brings a Jewish person into Jewish adulthood with death and victimization.

    How about twinning that person with an Israeli who is about to become bar mitzvah so they could become friends and a bond could be forged with the living? How about providing a trip or a source of information that will teach that bar/bat mitzvah about Jewish LIFE and customs rather than focus just on the torah reading and on death and victimization?

    I mean, really, the Holocaust is not the defining issue of Judaism.

  • I knew this post would open up that discussion again. I don’t completely disagree with you. But maybe it’s a tripling that’s the answer: the American bar/bat mitzvah kid & the Israeli contemporary & a correspondence program wherein the two learn about each other, and about one of the children victimized in the Holocaust.

    Just because it’s not THE defining educational character of Judaism doesn’t mean it shouldn’t play any role in the maturing awareness of a child approaching adulthood. Especially in light of the social behemoth that the bar/bat mitzvah has become these days. A little more mitzvah to go with the bar, as people say…

  • Esther, I agree with your post.
    However, I think the best memorial to our lost brothers and sisters is to promote Judaism worldwide to non-monotheist peoples (I do not accept that Christianity is monotheist), mainly only in the 3rd world, since many people in the 1st world have anti-Jewish prejudices. As it says, somewhere in Nevi’im “Ten men of all nations shall grab hold of your talit and say “teach us, for we have heard that G-d is with you”.

  • which is not to say i don’t agree with you too esther, i just don’t like the holocaust as jewish identity, its too overwheming to even comprehend at the age of 13, and ends up turning more people off to judaism, i think, then giving them a stronger connection to it. Read all about how i feel here in fact.

  • Yeah. I mean I’m sorry and all but those sad little dead Holocaust babies will strangle us in our sleep with the grief and sadness they induce. There’s a reason why Judaism has proscribed mourning periods, beyond which continued mourning is not only discouraged but is considered a sin.

    Just sayin is all ….

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