Jewish Care members and JFS students celebrate their B’nei Mitzvah

22 Mar 2017

On Tuesday 21 March, three members of Jewish Care’s Brenner Community Centre in Stamford Hill who never had a bat mitzvah, celebrated their Bat Mitzvah’s together with 26 JFS Year 7 students who are participating in a Jewish Care and JFS B’nei Mitzvah programme.

Lord Levy, President of both Jewish Care and JFS presented the women with certificates at the ceremony which took place in The Wohl Synagogue at the school was attended by more than 75 people, including Executive Head of JFS, Deborah Lipkin and family of the older and younger participants.

As well as giving the community centre members the chance to symbolically mark this important rite of passage with the children, the aim of the joint programme is to inspire the children to think about their responsibility to the community as they become Bnei Mitzvah and become officially responsible for their own Jewish life.

The fortnightly sessions brought the generations together and gave the students the opportunity to learn more about Jewish Care and volunteering. Organised and run by the school’s social action coordinator, Tami Addlestone, together with Jewish Care, the programme saw the students visit the East London centre in small groups to talk with members about their lives and look at old photos together, comparing the lives of 12 and 13 year olds then and now. The students supported members in creating a collage of their life, wrote a poem for them and they learned how to recite the Shema. The Brenner members also visited the students at JFS.

As the sessions progressed, both students and Brenner Centre members alike have been enthusiastic about the opportunity they have had, with some lovely relationships forming. After one visit, one of the students was asked what the best thing about going to Brenner was and the answer was, "The best thing was meeting Celia. She was like my grandma and she really cared about us".

At the ceremony, Sadie Levy, 84 Celia Kosminsky, 93, and Jean Islin, 86 were given a warm welcome when they entered school.

Afterwards Jean, who read a poem one of the children had written for her, said, “It was very emotional, I didn’t expect it. We loved the children, they worked so hard with us making us collages and poems. We learned from them and them from us. It was truly a tremendous day.”

Tamar Silas, one of the students who spoke at the ceremony, said, “On one of my first trips I met these amazing three women, including Celia, she has inspired me with fascinating stories about her life when she was my age. I loved hearing her tell us all about her siblings and her Friday night dinners every week. We made a collage together all about how life has changed over time and how different it was to be Jewish in those days.

“It made me realise how lucky I am that I have the opportunity to go to Jewish schools and I have grown up somewhere where I can be Jewish. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these lovely women, I will definitely remember this for the rest of my life.”

Sadie Levy, adds, “The way the children were teaching the Shema was amazing, it was very good learning from the children the way they learn things. I thought the school was fantastic.

I was so nervous but it was all marvellous,” she continues. “The children who came to see us were so well behaved and we really got to know each other. A girl being bat mitzvah is something I never thought I’d be, but this is an honour and that’s how I feel, that I’ve been honoured.

Hannah Marks said, “Before I started the Jewish Care programme I thought being Jewish was just something I was just brought up to do. But by getting to know these three women and talking to them about their younger Jewish backgrounds it made me realise how important being Jewish is. Not only has it made me more comfortable about my Judaism but it has also made me what being Jewish means.”

Lord Levy, spoke at the ceremony telling guests: “It is an honour to be here today at this ceremony and an amazing proud day, as President of both Jewish Care and JFS to celebrating this joint programme with a wonderful blending of older and younger generations like this. For the members of Jewish Care’s Brenner Community Centre, which is two minutes from where I grew up, to have the chance to celebrate their bat mitzvah’s with the school children who are celebrating their own Bar and Bat Mitzvahs it is so meaningful.

“It’s fantastic for everyone involved, young and old to connect here at JFS and at the community centre throughout the programme. The students are participating in fundraising and charity and understanding what it is to be involved in the Jewish community from a young age.

“I can only say to each of you that you are Bar Mitzvah today that you are fantastic role models and you’ve given us something we’ll never forget.”

The Jewish Care / JFS Bnei Mitzvah programme is in its second year. To compliment the visits to the centre the programme includes lunchtime sessions for the students. To date they have had the opportunity to quiz Jewish Care’s Chief Executive Simon Morris and Debbie Fox, Trustee and Vice-Chair about the work of the organisation and heard an inspirational talk from Simon Davies about disability.

The students will continue with the programme and be encouraged to think beyond  about how they can support Jewish Care and other organisations in the community in the future. A number of the participants of the programme are planning to sign up to Jewish Care’s 10K Bnei Mitzvah Walk that is taking place in May. The walk takes participants on a route that both starts and finishes at Jewish Care resources with a stop on the way for tea with residents at Clore Manor Home in Hendon. The walk is open to all year 7 & 8 pupils and is an opportunity for young people demonstrate responsibility to the community at this important time in their lives whilst giving them an opportunity to see the work of the organisation and meet and talk to elders in the community. For more information about the walk email ncohen@jcare.org