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Putting the 'Mitzvah' into 'Bat-Mitzvah'

Sofia Wiedmann and friends had a blast when she twinned her Bat Mitzvah party with Yonit, a disabled young teen, in a program sponsored by Aleh.
By David Lev
First Publish: 12/20/2010, 10:56 PM / Last Update: 12/21/2010, 2:47 PM

Aleh.org

For some children, their Bar or Bat-Mitzvah day means a party and presents. But shouldn't the character of the day reflect its name? Shouldn't one who becomes a “child of the mitzvah” engage in some good deeds, specifically on their special day?

Sofia Wiedmann of Modi'in thought so, and along with her mother Talia, she searched out mitzvah opportunities that would be appropriate for a Bat-Mitzvah celebration. But surprisingly, Talia told Israel National News, it was harder than the two had anticipated. “Most of the volunteer activities are geared towards older kids, so we had to look around for awhile.”

In the end, though, the Wiedmanns found the perfect way for Sofia to both celebrate her Bat-Mitzvah and do a good deed – by “twinning” her celebration with a girl named Yonit, a young disabled teen  – in a program sponsored by Aleh, which provides high-level care for 650 children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

After consulting with Dov Hirth, the head of Aleh's Bar/Bat Mitzvah Twinning Program, Sofia decided to invite Yonit to her party – and to raise money for Aleh, by running a bowl-athon. Before the event, Sofia and Talia visited neighbors and relatives explaining the event and recruiting sponsors for each pin, each strike, or the winner of each game.

Thirty people – friends of Talia's, relatives of the Wiedmanns – along with Yonit, attended the party, and “we had a blast,” Sofia said. “I had never met Yonit before, but I have had other friends with disabilities, like Down's Syndrome,” so she knew what to expect, she said. The other kids were fine with the activity – and got along with Yonit, too. And, after the event, Dov presented Sofia with a special plaque and gifts that had been handcrafted for her by the children of Aleh in their vocational workshops, in appreciation of her sharing of her special day.

“We were very happy that Sofia chose to do this,” said Talia. “We have made it a point in her upbringing to teach that it's what's inside that's important, that it's the neshama (the soul) that counts. We all need to appreciate each person for themselves, regardless of who we think they are.”

And for Sofia, the event was an opportunity not only to get to know Yonit – but to get to know Aleh, an organization she hopes to work with more in the future. “I really would like to get involved in more Aleh activities, and I would recommend Bat-Mitzvah twinning to anyone,” she says. “It's fun, and a mitzvah, which is what you should be doing on your Bat-Mitzvah day.”