After two long years of pandemic-postponed celebrations, young people in Grades 7 to 9 in Ottawa will finally have a chance to celebrate their B'nei Mitzvahs at a special community-wide party on June 12 hosted by Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI), supported by the Soloway JCC and Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
“We wanted to acknowledge their accomplishment by celebrating the fun part, with their friends, in style,” said KBI’s Cantor Jason Green, adding that teens were involved in planning the event too. It’s a Sunday-evening dance party with a DJ, games, prizes, a video montage and a group social action project.
“We wanted to pass on to the next generation a love of doing Jewish,” said Cantor Green who stressed that it was important for the organizers to have the event open to all youth in the community to create “a memorable combination” of “ritual, social action, connecting youth to each other.”
Cantor Green explained that many of the attendees have worked through their challenging B’nei Mitzvah classes via Zoom. And then, at the end of the year-long journey, there was little acknowledgement of the accomplishment.
“They got to the finish line and while not everyone has parties, there’s usually some sort of acknowledgement that’s more significant,” said Cantor Green. “Many kids just missed out on or had some version that wasn’t what they imagined. Doing this at this time for this group of kids, seems like it’s extremely fitting.”
He adds that “it’s been so difficult for these kids to socialize over the past two years, just in general. And so many mental health issues come along with that, so it’s been devastating to families.”
Emblematic of this isolation is the logo for the event, which was created by a youth, Ella Fletcher, who had her Bat Mitzvah during the pandemic.
“It’s astounding what it encapsulates. It answers why this is important now, and shows the effect on the enjoyment of coming back together,” said Cantor Green.
The logo features a masked youth, identity-less, sitting in front of a Torah scroll, inside a box representing a Zoom/computer screen.
Thanks to a Federation Microgrant and support from SJCC and KBI, the cost to attend was only $36 and a donation of a kosher, non-perishable food item. If you registered early enough, there was even party swag with your name on it.
Cantor Green has acted primarily as liaison between the lay people, the synagogue, the board and funders, but added that the event wouldn’t have been possible without Jamie Mitzmacher, with support from Jackie Luffman (previous co-chair of the committee), as well as youth committee chair Anne Read, and a team of six sub-committee members.
“They’re the ones doing all the direct calling and emailing,” said Cantor Green. “Their work is amazing and this wouldn’t be happening without them.”
Cantor Green said he already considers the event a success. In just the first two weeks of promoting the program, about 45 youth have already registered. He calls this the result of a “holistic, volunteer grassroots effort,” to build this special event for our children.
“We’re so proud of what’s already been going on, the amazing leadership that’s come together, with lay leaders organizing donations and making phone calls to hundreds of people across Ottawa… It’s already brought together so many people,” he said. “It’s about having a meaningful Jewish experience.”