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‘Young Lion’ Program Pairs B’nai Mitzvah Students with Holocaust Survivors

As many B’nai Mitzvah students search for meaningful ways to involve themselves in the Jewish value of tikkun olam, (repair of the world), the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Young Lion of Judah Program gives them a unique opportunity to bridge generational divides and forge lasting bonds with Holocaust survivors.

The result of a partnership between Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Center and Holocaust Memorial, the Young Lion of Judah Program pairs 25 students and 25 survivors for several months of learning. Participants meet on three Sundays for different experiences relating to lessons of the Holocaust. In addition, students volunteer on their own to visit their partner survivors, and build new and important friendships.

Over the past three years of its existence, the program has provided unforgettable experiences for children, their families and survivors alike.

“Our family gained a ‘grandmother,’ thanks to this program, and I think Lea Roth, the survivor we partnered with, also gained a new family,” said Mytyl Simancas-Bister, who participated in the program last year with her husband and her son, Danny. Their family found particular meaning in this experience, as most of their relatives died during the Holocaust. After completion of the Young Lion of Judah Program, Simancas-Bister said her son was ready to take on the responsibility of speaking on behalf of those who perished in the Shoah.

Zach Danial, another former participant, called Young Lion of Judah “my most powerful lesson in the importance of social justice…No textbook can explain the brutal experiences the way the survivors can. My friends and I could be the last generation of teenagers who have the opportunity to befriend survivors and learn about their experiences firsthand.”

That is exactly why Joe Sachs, a Holocaust survivor who endured three years in a Polish ghetto, chooses to participate. “I want the younger generations to know about the brutality and genocide that occurred,” he said. “It’s so important for young people to get involved, and I strive to inspire them to stand up for social justice.”

Along with the meetings and visits, each Young Lion is asked to recognize his or her partner during their Bar or Bat Mitzvah service and make a gift of $180 to the Annual Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign. Students receive a certificate of completion and, as a special memento, a beautiful Young Lion of Judah gift – a silver bracelet for girls and silver tallit clips for boys.

Students who will become Bar or Bat Mitzvah between September 2012 and August 2013 are eligible for this year’s program, which runs from October 21, 2012 to February 10, 2013. For an application or for further information, please contact Jewish Volunteer Center Director Lori Drutz at 786.866.8414 or Volunteer@JewishMiami.org.

 

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