Doing and Celebrating Mitzvahs in the Holy Land

By Karen on 08/02/2011 @ 11:06 AM

Helping hands at Hazon Yeshaya Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem

Thinking about how you can make your child’s upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah truly memorable? Would you like to give your entire family an experience that goes way beyond a one-night party? Think about a Family Mission to Israel, and create a life-changing experience for your B’nai Mitzvah child.

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has been taking families from North and South Miami-Dade on B’nai Mitzvah Family Missions every summer for years, and we have seen firsthand the effect that experiencing the land, history and culture of Israel together has had on families.

A Family Mission gives parents, grandparents and children an opportunity to walk through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem together, to experience the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, to relive the history atop Masada, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors in the Galilee and Golan Heights, plus so much more.

But the highlight of a Family Mission for adults is seeing their children becoming B’nai Mitzvah in the Jewish homeland, at or near the Western Wall or on top of Masada. And for the B’nai Mitzvah child, it’s a spiritual experience that has no comparison.

This summer, two Miami families gave their children an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience that went beyond the ceremonial B’nai Mitzvah. With their parents’ guidance and good example, the children learned what it meant to become giving, sharing, caring adults.

Gleaning crops for distribution to the needy with Project Leket

Sara and David Bejar and Daphna and Ariel Bentata -- who are all active in Federation and other Jewish community organizations -- along with some of their friends from Miami, traveled to Israel one week prior to the Family Mission for what was dubbed “The Mitzvah Brigade.” In total, eight adults and seventeen children between the ages of five and eighteen years old participated.

Spending a week in the Negev, they concentrated on mitzvah projects in the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s partnership city of Yerucham. They beautified kindergartens by painting a playground and outdoor equipment as well as small murals on a wall in each classroom with a Miami motif which were signed by the families. They also supplied and organized the year-end school party for the Yerucham Youth Futures children, who participate in a program that empowers disadvantaged Israeli youth, providing them with an equal opportunity to develop their academic and social skills.

The Miami families had held fundraising events, such as soccer tournaments, prior to their trip and were able to donate $3,500 for the Yerucham projects. Another $1,500 raised was used when they visited another Federation project in Pardes Chana-Karkur. In that city, they painted and renovated the Yeshurun Ethiopian Youth Center working along with local residents, assisted in teaching an Ethiopian dance seminar, presented dance clothes to the troupe, organized a soccer tournament and presented soccer uniforms to the local team -- all with the funds they had raised.

Organizing a soccer game in Pardes Chana – Karkur where uniforms and equipment were donated

In addition to all this work, the Brigade also had plenty of fun, including a pool party with the local children, visiting an IDF base, sleeping in mud huts, bicycle riding in a youth village, camel rides and Bedouin feasts.

After their children had learned about sharing their good fortune by working and giving to others who had less during the Mitzvah Brigade, their extended families from Mexico and South America joined them in Israel to celebrate the B’nai Mitzvahs of the children at the Kotel during a week of ceremony, celebration and touring.

As you can see, taking your family on a B’nai Mitzvah Mission can be an experience like no other.

Please check back here for follow-up stories by guest bloggers from the participating families who will talk about their experience during the Mitzvah Brigade and Family Mission that followed.

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