Special Twinning Project for Bar and Bat Mitzvah Youth
"Here too you are enveloped in love and friendship.
Remain loyal to your people, even when times are hard…"
These words were written in a special album that Jiri Bader's friends created for him on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah, which he marked in the Terezin ghetto.
In January 1943, just two months before Jiri’s Bar Mitzvah, the Bader family was deported to Terezin along with the rest of the Jews of Kyjov, Czechoslovkia. In light of this upheaval in their lives, it was impossible to celebrate Jiri’s Bar Mitzvah on time.
Nearly a year later, they were finally able to mark the occasion in the ghetto youth club. In spite of the restrictions and difficult conditions, Jiri's family and friends prepared gifts for him: he received an album illustrated by the talented caricaturist Max Placek with his life-story in words and pictures, a tallit (prayer shawl) and its cloth bag that was made from fabric remnants, and a leather wallet made in one of the ghetto workshops.
Six months later, Jiri, and his father Pavel were deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
Of the nearly 1.5 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust many never had the opportunity to reach the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
A bar or bat mitzvah signifies the moment a child accepts his or her place as a Jewish individual and takes part in the fabric of the Jewish people. In honor of this milestone, Yad Vashem offers a Twinning Program as a unique way to mark this special occasion. The program connects boys or girls marking their bar or bat mitzvah to their past by bonding them with the memory of an individual child who was murdered during the Holocaust. The boy or girl being remembered will have something in common with the child celebrating – a birthday, a name or place of origin.
Families who have participated in the program describe it as “a meaningful experience that deeply connects us to the Jewish people…" Hallie Kopel, a Bat Mitzvah girl who twinned with a Shoah victim as part of her Bat Mitzvah Ceremony said, "It is important to know where you're from, so that you know where you are going."
Following the twinning ceremony of her son at Yad Vashem, Debra Rinn reflected: "It was very special for us to have the opportunity to share our son's Bar Mitzvah with the memory of a boy who was murdered in the Holocaust."
As the world is rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and people are staying at home and exercising social distancing, people are seeking alternative ways to celebrate landmark events and occasions. It is now possible to mark the Bar/Bat Mitzvah of someone dear to you in a meaningful and memorable way, from anywhere in the world. Yad Vashem has adapted their highly acclaimed Twinning Program and now offers an online package that enables access to the resources from home.
Earlier this year, Aron Wells from the UK chose to share his Bar Mitzvah with a Jewish boy who was murdered in the Holocaust. His father Adam tweeted:
"My son, Aron, was paired with Aron Gotlib from Poland who was born in 1933. Aron was murdered, along with his mother Fela, when he was only 9 years old.
I don't want Aron Gotlib's name and beautiful face to be just be consigned to history. He deserved to have his Bar Mitzvah and celebrate with his family, like millions of others. On ‘my’ Aron's Bar Mitzvah we will celebrate on his behalf too."
As time passes, remembering those who were murdered in the Holocaust as individuals and not just as numbers becomes more important. We must engage the next generation to continue carrying the memory forward. Yad Vashem's goal is to infuse a sense of pride in our shared heritage through a myriad of remembrance and educational activities in order to strengthen Jewish continuity and to create memory with meaning for future generation. The Twinning Program helps ensure that youth today remain connected to our shared past and gives us an opportunity to honor those murdered during the Holocaust.
Sign up here to participate in the Twinning Program.