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Israeli boys become bar mitzvah with help from local friends

How the fund — and the relationships — grew

 
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The Scholarship Fund for the Advancement of Children in Israel (Keren Milgot) began about a dozen years ago when Rabbi Uzi Rivlin read in an Israeli newspaper about a family in the southern development town of Kiryat Gat that was so poor they had only one pacifier for two babies.

“Uzi contacted the reporter, who got him in touch with Chaim Shalom, then the head of the city’s welfare department,” related his wife, Jenny. “Uzi called him and said we would like to help. That particular family got [assistance] as a result of the article, but Uzi said perhaps there were others in crisis. Chaim gave us a few names, and that summer Uzi came to Israel and went with Chaim to see them.”

Keren Milgot now helps children referred by social services all over Israel. Local synagogues that regularly contribute to the program include Cong. Beth Aaron of Teaneck, Cong. Ahavat Achim of Fair Lawn, and The Jewish Center of Teaneck. For several summers, Rivlin has arranged bar mitzvahs at these shuls or at Camp Moshava for Israeli children who are orphaned or whose parents are too overwhelmed, sick, or destitute to sponsor such an event.

At Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., where the Rivlins teach fifth-graders every Sunday, the rabbi set up a pen-pal program between the students and scholarship recipients their age.

“He translates the letters from English to Hebrew and I translate the letters from Hebrew to English. It takes us hours,” said Jenny Rivlin. “A few years ago, one of the kids came to Uzi and said, ‘I’ve been writing to this boy in Israel the whole year. I want to invite him here.’ Uzi was so shocked he did not know what to say.” But the idea soon mushroomed among the congregants.

The Westchester families have become an integral part of the Keren Milgot summer experience. Several foot the entire cost of the children’s trip, welcome them in their homes, and even outfit them for camp. As many of the visitors keep kosher, host families from this Reform congregation also buy food especially for their needs.

After camp, Danielle and Yarin will visit with the family of their pen-pals — twin girls who, coincidentally, also experienced the death of their father not long ago.

“The mother is ready to take Danielle and Yarin shopping for whatever they need,” said Rivlin. “We plan to bring the two girls to Fair Lawn for Yarin’s bar mitzvah on Aug. 14, although Ahavat Achim is an Orthodox synagogue. When you talk about tragedy, it doesn’t matter if you are Reform or Orthodox. They are just Jewish children.”

Tax-deductible contributions may be made payable to Cong. Beth Aaron, with “Scholarship Fund” in the memo line and mailed to P.O. Box 1155, Teaneck, NJ 07666.

Abigal Klein Leichman

 

More on: Israeli boys become bar mitzvah with help from local friends

 
 
 

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Rabbi Yehuda Borer assists Ohr with the blessings.

A white dove alighted in a crevice of the Western Wall on a hot Monday morning in July. Families from Israel and abroad were gathering for sons’ bar mitzvah ceremonies.

A guest pointed out the bird to the women around her. “A dove of peace! It is a good sign.”

Dina certainly needed a good sign. A mother of six, Dina was at Jerusalem’s holiest spot with her son Yarin and daughter Danielle, who will turn 13 in August. They are not twins, but two of triplets. (Last names have been omitted to protect the families’ privacy.)

 
 
 
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Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)

 

Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.

 

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