Boys and girls from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, including Siberia, experienced a week of events, attractions and trips as they participated in a unique journey organized by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe to celebrate their bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.

The climax of the journey was Thursday when the boys celebrated a bar mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall plaza at which they each received a pair of tefillin (phylacteries) as a gift. The girls were gifted a unique candlestick for lighting Shabbat (Sabbath) candles.

Musicians waiting by the Western Wall entrance greeted the children with singing and drums and canopies, which were spread over the heads of the bar mitzvah boys. The musicians accompanied the boys with song and dance until the Western Wall plaza.

The girls prayed and then participated in a festive ceremony in the Western Wall tunnels at which they prepared special candlesticks for Holocaust survivors who didn't merit to have a bat mitzvah celebration.

The boys entered the Western Wall Plaza where each was given a pair of tefillin, a prayer shawl and a special siddur (prayer book) donated by businessman Rami Levy. The boys put on their tefillin and prayed together with the trip counselors and community leaders who accompanied them throughout the trip.

After the reading of the Torah, a special ceremony was held, at which prayer shawls were spread over the boys' heads and kohanim (men of the priestly tribe) who were present blessed them.

The event at the Western Wall was held in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Moreshet.

"This is an opportunity to connect the younger generation to their heritage and the previous generations," a spokesperson for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation stated.

The members of the Morasha branch of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe work in Jewish communities, especially small communities, in eastern and western Europe. The goal is to foster Jewish identity in children who don't live in a Jewish environment through Jewish activities throughout the year and especially during the holidays.

The flagship project is a week-long Bnei Mitzvah trip to Israel, which finalizes a three-month course on Jewish subjects.

The children visit the holy sites all over the country and experience a special opportunity to deepen their connection with Jewish tradition and life in Israel. The youths were accompanied by 30 community leaders and their wives.

"We are excited to see a group of Jewish youths proudly celebrating their Jewishness and entering the yoke of mitzvot," said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe.

Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, Director General of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, added: "It's impressive to see the children's excitement every year on their arrival at the Western Wall. It's an experience that, as they say, is engraved in their hearts for the rest of their lives. We are happy to be part of this."

"This is the eleventh year of the journey and, thank God, we see an increase in the number of boys and girls who come on the journey," said Rabbi Yosef Beincker, vice president of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. "The visit is planned to take advantage of every hour for the sake of the youth. A week is a short time and thank God we were able to expose them to the beauty of Judaism and visit a long list of Jewish sites. They return home full of Jewish pride. This is a privilege for us."

credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך
credit: חזקי ברוך