A growing trend amongst members of our synagogue community is to replace a Harrison Bar/Bat Mitzvah service with one in Israel. Am I sad that an increasing number of our kids are not becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah here, in their home synagogue, on the Bimah where many of them were once named? No, on the contrary! I am proud that their connection to Israel is so strong that they wish to mark this milestone event in our Jewish State. I have found it interesting that, for some of our kids (and their family members), this is a first trip; for others it is a return visit to Israel after a meaningful and fun previous Israel experience. The trip is sometimes a family-only trip; others link up with a group organized by one of the many travel providers who offer these services. Bar/Bat Mitzvah services in Israel take place at a variety of locations – from the Kotel and Masada to other natural or historic settings. On some occasions, members of our community identify an Israel-based rabbi to assist them with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service; and on other occasions, Cantor Marcos or I are fortunate enough to travel with our members to ensure a personal and JCCH-esque service, even if it is 7,000 miles from 10528!

I am writing these words, in fact, en route to a JCCH Bat Mitzvah, scheduled to take place this coming Monday atop Masada, in the Judean Desert. I am delighted to be joining Bella Wasserman and family for this Simcha. Since you cannot all join us, I should note that all of our “destination” Bar/Bat Mitzvah students are also asked to come to the synagogue for an Aliyah on a Shabbat morning and to share some of their Israel experience with the congregation. On Monday, I plan to share these words with Bella and her family, so that none of us take for granted the miraculous nature of what we will experience. When David Ben Gurion was asked to testify before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry as he lobbied them for a home in Palestine for the Jewish people, he said the following:

More than 300 years ago, a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World. It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread that people ate when they left Plymouth? Well, more than 3,3,00 years ago the Jews left Egypt. It was more than 3,000 years ago and every Jew in the world knows exactly the date when we left. It was on the 15th of Nisan [four calendar days from today, Bella]. The bread they ate was matzoth. Up to today’s date all the Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same matzoth, in America, in Russia, and tell the story of the exile from Egypt and tell what happened. They finish by these two sentences: “This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.”

And Ben Gurion, of course, got his State – as did we. Our beloved State of Israel, warts and all, turns 70 years old later this month. The idea of jetting to Israel (or anywhere else, for that matter) for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah was completely inconceivable to our grandparents; we are blessed with that option. Now that we have this opportunity – to travel to Israel for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or for any other reason, we should seriously consider it. If you are interested in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel (for a 13-year old or for an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah), please let me know. I hope, in the coming years, to bring groups from our congregation to Israel. If you would like to travel for this reason, please let me know. Shalom from aboard El AL Airlines – and Happy 70th to the State of Israel!