JERUSALEM – On June 17, 1944, Moshe Porat marked his bar mitzvah in the Jewish ghetto established by the Nazis in the town of Hajdúnánás in southeastern Hungary. In the dead of night, he took his new set of tefillin which his father, who had been taken away by the Nazis for forced labor, had bought him and concealed it in his shirt and then followed his uncle to a hidden nook where 10 men gathered with a Torah scroll.
Moshe Porat was one of the lucky ones. Many of the nearly 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust never had the opportunity to reach the age of bar/bat mitzvah. They never had the chance to celebrate with family and friends the cherished Jewish tradition that marks that marks a Jewish youth’s transition into adulthood and signifies the continuity of the Jewish people from generation to generation.
With this in mind, and as a way of connecting the younger generation of Jews to the story of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, has developed a unique initiative called the B’nai Mitzvah Twinning Program. The program connects a bar/bat mitzvah his/her past by bonding the teen with the memory of an individual child who was murdered during the Holocaust and who shares something with that teen – a birthday, a name, a place of origin, etc.
Registration for the program is simple and can be completed online. A specially created study guide/kit is sent to the family that includes a brief history of the individual paired with the bar/bat mitzvah, a Page of Testimony from the Yad Vashem Shoah Victims’ Names Database, and an official Twinning certificate from Yad Vashem to be presented to the bar/bat mitzvah. For those planning to celebrate their bar or bat mitzvah in the Jewish state, Yad Vashem offers a program in Israel that includes a special tour of the Holocaust History Museum and a Twinning ceremony in Yad Vashem’s synagogue.
As time passes, remembering those murdered in the Holocaust as individuals and not just as numbers becomes more challenging. The “Twinning” program helps meet that challenge. It helps ensure that youth today remember the Holocaust and connect with those who lost their lives just because they were Jewish.
For more information on this program, contact Simmy Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.