Formerly known as “Twinning,” the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh’s Remembering the Children B’nei Mitzvah Project provides an opportunity for students to honor and share their bar or bat mitzvah ceremony with a child who experienced the Holocaust and did not get to have their own ceremony. As part of this process, students complete a reflection piece touching on the topics of Jewish identity, taking on responsibility, and a theme of their choice — all in relation to the individual they discovered and wish to honor.

The first student to complete our revised Remembering the Children Project is Noah Levitt of Temple Sinai, who became a bar mitzvah this past November, 2018. His thoughtful reflection can teach us how learning about just one person’s story can help restore and cultivate empathy, kindness, and personal responsibility. We invite you to read his words below:

What I Learned From Raja [Gumnic’s] Story

JEWISH IDENTITY: As a 13 year old boy in today’s society about to become a Bar Mitzvah, I’m beginning to understand the importance and responsibilities of being Jewish. I’ve learned about hate in the classroom, watched hate through the media, and unfortunately seen hate in my own community…in my own place of worship. In the classroom – that our Jewish values and traditions cannot be forgotten no matter how evil presents itself when events like the Holocaust occur. Today’s media provides unlimited and unfiltered access to news events that challenge how I express my own personal Jewish identity. And less than one month ago my community experienced not just Anti-Semitism, but true evil in its rawest form. By violating and challenging the sanctity of what should be a pure and sacred worship place and my comfort of how and where I (and the Pittsburgh Jewish community) express our Judaism.

TAKING ON RESPONSIBILITIES: As a soon to be Bar Mitzvah, I look forward to accepting the responsibilities that my Jewish faith bestowed upon me. Though Raja’s story of living though the Holocaust and the challenges of being Jewish in today’s world I hope to express, share, and continue to learn how to become a better person and young Jewish adult. I believe that I can do this by continuing my Jewish education and never letting people forget the horrors of our past. I look forward to being counted in a Minyan and performing acts of loving kindness that allow me to affect change in my part of the world.

FINAL THOUGHTS: In my Torah portion Vayishlach I’ve learned about how goodness can always be found within the throws of evil. Even while Jacob performed evil acts against Esau – love ultimately overcame their experiences. Though Raja’s Holocaust experiences I never once observed or heard her be anything but kind, never showing me, my family, or others hatred or bitterness. Similarly, I watched the power that our community displayed (from youth to adults) in supporting and caring for all those hurting within our community. In conclusion, I understand the honor and responsibilities of being Jewish and I accept these responsibilities with honor. I look forward to honoring Raja’s name, her Jewish identity and those of her family as I mature into being a Jewish young adult in my Temple and my community.

For more information regarding the Remembering the Children B’nei Mitzvah Project, please visit our website at http://www.hcofpgh.org/bnei-mitzvah. You can also contact Emily Bernstein, our Education Outreach Associate, at 412-801-7294 or via email at ebernstein@hcpgh.org.

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