Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrants and their families at the Western Wall
Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrants and their families at the Western WallNACHSHON PHILIPSON

Over 30 deaf and hearing impaired students from across Israel were treated to a special bar and bat mitzvah celebration today made possible through a joint efforts of the Young Israel in Israel’s Judaic Heritage Program for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the Jewish Agency for Israel and World Mizrachi.

The program began at the Beit Knesset Nitzanim in the Baka neighborhood in Jerusalem with the boys donning their tefillin and presented with a tallit and siddur while the girls received candle sticks designed by famed Israeli artist Emanuel and a book of tehillim. Followed by a celebratory meal, the group of 21 boys and nine girls travelled to the Old City for a guided tour and final ceremony at the Kotel.

The bar and bat mitzva honorees, all of whom study in special schools to address their hearing challenges arrived in Jerusalem from all over Israel. The entire program was presented via a sign-language interpreter. Rivka Morowitz, a mother of eight children including three who she said have special needs accompanied her son Meir who is deaf and has Downs Syndrome. "This event allowed Meir to know that something special was being done just for him and he now knows that he is being introduced to the world of Jewish adulthood in a meaningful way that he and our family will always remember."

Daniel Meyer, Executive Director of Young Israel in Israel said, “There are few more rewarding things than witnessing a child who despite his or her limitations realizes that they are being counted and can celebrate in a way that respects their specific needs and interests. Many of these parents were told that their child would never talk or be able to learn. It’s truly heartwarming to see how far these children have come, the mountains they have had to climb to get to the this point. This is a moment that every one of these children is sure to cherish for the rest of their lives."

Roi Pri-or who attended the celebration with his eldest son Alon made the journey from Haifa. The father of four thanked all those involved with this event, saying, “This is a truly emotional and special day for Alon.”

"The beauty of Jewish life is that it is immersive and engages all people, including those with particular disabilities,” said Rabbi Doron Perez, Chair of World Mizrachi. “We as a community are committed to ensuring that these young men and women will be able to experience the special transitional moments of the bar and bat mitzvah in a way which takes into account their unique needs."