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Mazal Tov

If pictures could talk…

The idea began to take hold when Nina Zuck (coordinator of ESRA's community projects) and her English friend, Nicky Weisfeld, were chatting over the phone. The English women were searching for some special way to make the batmitzvah celebration meaningful for their modern and hip twelve-year-olds. What was more natural to our Nina than to immediately think of ways to connect them to the batmitzvah celebration planned for the twelve girls in ESRA's Students Build a Neighborhood projects in the two Netanya communities of Heftzibah and Kiryat Nordau.

Over several months and hundreds of emails the plans grew and expanded, and on Sunday, April 7, six mothers and seven daughters arrived in Israel from the London area and began to make their week-long odyssey come true. On Monday night, Nina and Mervin hosted a warm and cozy barbecue at their home for the English guests together with ESRA volunteers to help everyone get to know each other. Then on Wednesday evening, mothers and daughters from two different parts of the world all came together to celebrate a joint batmitzvah party in the pleasant hall of the Shirat Amit shul in Kiryat Hasharon, Netanya.

'Getting to know you' can be a challenge when the language barrier would seem to separate the English from the Israeli guests. However, very quickly it became clear that they had more in common than just age, and the barriers seemed to evaporate into the air. 

The batmitzvah girls prepared their own Shabbat candlestick holders. Messy, but beautiful when completed. And then, a very moving moment of silence and private prayer was shared by all.

Later they all set out to prepare challot for the upcoming Shabbat and to do the ceremony of "Hafrashat Challah" – separating the first portion of the challah dough.

And when Bruria and her lovely mother offered to take the challot home and bake them, so that the English girls, who had no ovens in their hotel rooms, could taste their handiwork on Shabbat, we knew the evening was turning into the meaningful and moving celebration that we had all hoped to create.

Refreshments were followed by an exchange of token gifts between the English and the Israeli girls. Lots of singing of both English and Israeli current hit songs and lively dancing were shared by all, and even as the buses waited outside to take the revelers home, no one wanted to leave.

Feelings were strong and promises had been made: to stay in touch, to open a joint Facebook page for all the batmitzvah girls to post news and messages and - most important - to come again to visit or to stay.

Many thanks go to all the organizers, volunteers, sponsors and participants:

Jacki Edry, who put her whole heart and mind into planning and preparing the celebration but who couldn't be with us at this joyous event. We send her our sincerest wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

Gill Heron…., whose leadership and honest emotions made us all teary-eyed with joy and emotion.

Nina, who made possible EVERYTHING and EVERY STEP along the way.

Aliza Marks, Joan Weisman, Ros Ben Ezra and Nancy Kramer – indefatigable ESRA volunteers and the wonderfully helpful ESRA men – Mervin Zuck and Michael Altman.

Ravid, Jacki's wonderful daughter, and Bruria and her mother – for their ideas, enthusiasm and cooperation.

The wonderful female students of our Students Build a Neighborhood, Netanya Projects who made sure that no one was ever left out.

Natali Jewelry Design for the beautiful gift of bracelets for all the girls.

Our donors towards this magical evening.

The following quote from a letter we received from the English group tells their side:

"What can I say? Thank you for giving us such a wonderful time in Israel, firstly with the BBQ and then for organizing the batmitzvah party.

The ESRA ladies are so delightful and gave us such a friendly welcome. It was lovely to meet them and we can see why ESRA in Netanya is such a powerhouse of energy and activity. We are only sorry that we were all so engrossed in conversations about ESRA's activities and everyone's aliyah stories that we forgot to take any photos on Monday night. If you have a chance to take a picture of Joan, Gill, Cynthia and yourself all together and send it to us we would love to include them in our Israel photo book that we are making.

We loved the Ethiopian ethnic dance class. And thank you for letting us sneak in there for a quick look and dance. Hopefully we burned off a few of the calories we piled on later that evening…

And as for the batmitzvah party, we all, mothers and girls alike, found it to be an incredibly moving and amazing experience. The girls love their candlesticks and they will be a fantastic reminder of their time in Israel every time they use them on Friday night. It was fantastic to see how the girls managed to communicate and interact, despite not having a common language, albeit it that they were discussing their favourite pop group! When we reviewed the week with the girls on Shabbat afternoon, one of the highlights that kept being mentioned was the evening you had organized with the Ethiopian girls and, in particular, the singing towards the end, which they found very inspiring.


Nicky Weisfeld and the Group 



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Thursday, 25 April 2024

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