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Simchas Made Easy Without Losing the Meaning

It’s never been easier -- or more thorough.

Long known for putting meaning into bar and bat mitzvahs with its tree and water donation opportunities, invitations and certificates, Jewish National Fund is now offering one-stop shopping for all your simcha needs and an even more hands-on way to engage 12- and 13-year-olds at this pivotal point in their lives.

Just click on www.jnf.org/simcha and find the answers to everything on your bar/bat mitzvah to-do list: invitations; party favors; a trip to Israel complete with a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony and celebration; an option to be inscribed in the B’nai Mitzvah Honor Book housed in Jerusalem; a way to link to a child who perished in the Holocaust and honor their memory forever; and now, suggestions for myriad other mitzvah projects that your child can take on with gusto.

“JNF and U”, a new section on the website, gives adolescents the framework with which to find a tzedakah project that interests them and offers hands-on ways to raise money coupled with an educational component so that they walk away not only with pride in their accomplishment but new-found knowledge as well.

Because JNF’s work is so varied and helps the people of Israel in so many ways, there is something for everyone.

Evan Wildstein of Atlanta, GA, has been a baseball fan since he could walk. Now, in honor of his upcoming bar mitzvah, he is raising $5,000 to buy new bases for one of the baseball fields JNF is refurbishing for the brand new Israel Baseball League that is debuting this summer. “To do this,” said the 7th grader at Atlanta’s Greenfield Hebrew Academy, “I’m selling these special pens we ordered that say Project: Baseball on them and speaking about the project in my speech in synagogue. Hopefully I’ll be successful so when I go to Israel for the first time with my class next year on the 8th grade trip, we can go and see the field and the bases I helped buy.”

St. Louis, MO resident Max Levin stumbled upon his project while looking through the Children’s Honor Books in JNF’s Jerusalem office. “I was looking for a project to dedicate for my bar mitzvah,” said Max, “and there they were. Thousands upon thousands of names listed in Jewish National Fund’s Children’s Book in the Jerusalem office. Out of the six million Jews who were murdered, 1.5 million of them were children. That means that at least 150,000 of them were at the bar mitzvah age.

“There are very few records and very few stories left about these children,” he said. “Almost all of their families had been killed and almost no trace of them has ever been found. When I saw those Books of Honor I knew at that very moment that I wanted to dedicate my bar mitzvah to the lost children of the Holocaust. I did not accept any personal gifts for my bar mitzvah. Instead, everything went to this project, the B’nai Mitzvah Remembrance Wall.” Anyone can participate: $1,800 gets any bar or bat mitzvah a plaque on the wall linked to the name of a child who died.

If you like horses consider raising funds for JNF’s William & Elizabeth Shatner Therapeutic Riding Consortium for Israel, which funds therapeutic horseback riding for people with disabilities. Toy horses can be sold for as little as $2 each or you can host a Ride for Relief session at a local stable. Sponsors can contribute a set amount for each rider. Any amount you raise will help disabled individuals, but if you raise $1000, you will support a stable and maintenance for one horse for an entire year. For $5000, you can provide riding therapy lessons for one rider for a year.

For bikers, help JNF build a bicycle path in the Negev Desert that will help promote eco-tourism in the area, bringing more people to the region and providing employment opportunities while teaching about the desert’s ecology. You can organize a bike-a-thon in your hometown with sponsors contributing for each rider. Make flyers and posters advertising your project using photographs of the beautiful Negev desert (You can find information and photographs on the JNF website.)

If you’re an environmentalist, consider raising funds through JNF for one of its partners—Kibbutz Lotan, also in the Negev Desert. JNF’s partnership with Kibbutz Lotan has three main components: water conservation, forestation, and environmental/ecological education. The kibbutz recycles leftover food from the kitchen for use as compost and, in addition to vegetables, its organic gardens provide fruit and herbs. Work has also begun on a children's playground made of recycled objects -- sculptures, seats made from old tires, and huts of mud and bottles. The playground will form the basis of an education area for kibbutz children and visiting groups. Working with JNF, Lotan will be able to to expand the number of jobs and attract more Israelis and foreign tourists to its programs. Lotan, like JNF, has environmentalism as a top priority.

To support this project you can make and sell environmentally friendly birdhouses from recycled materials (see www.jnf.org/growingup for directions). Become more environmentally conscious, and encourage your family, friends, school and synagogue to do the same. Some actions you can take:

  1. Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans
  2. Don’t leave the water running when you’re not using it
  3. Turn off the TV, lights, and your computer when not in use.

There are plenty more ideas where those came from. To find out more, visit www.jnf.org/simcha or contact education@jnf.org. A special JNF certificate will be presented to you in honor of your bar/bat mitzvah for taking part in tikkun olam, repairing the world, through JNF.

Photos: Top: Evan Wildstein suits up to play baseball.
Max Levin with his parents in front of the B'nai Mitzvah Remembrance Wall.
College students in israel with JNF build a children's playground with recycled materials.

 

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