Jerusalem, Israel - May 23, 2019 - The bar and bat mitzvah celebration of 90 Israeli children with hearing loss and other disabilities began at the Nitzanim synagogue in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel, and concluded with a visit to the Kosel in the afternoon. The annual event held on Monday, May 20th, was sponsored by the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) which provides programming and support of the Israeli deaf community, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the non-profit organization Shema.
The children, who came from Eilat in the south to northern Israeli communities, were accompanied by an adult. Most bar mitzvah boys had a father or grandfather, or both standing next to them. Tefillin were presented, and were being put on, assisted, either by one of the yeshiva boys who came to help, or a family member.
Jewish Agency chair Issac Herzog was one of the invited guests attending the bar and bat celebration, speaking at the start of the program. One of the most touching moments of the morning was when Herzog noticed one young man standing alone. Immediately, Herzog went over and began to show him how to wear, how to wrap the tefillin straps.
The emotional and joyous ceremony saw the bar and bat mitzvah celebrants get an aliyah under a chuppah, similar to as on Simchas Torah. A meat seudas mitzvah for all of the participants filled the downstairs hall of the shul following their aliyahs.
Also speaking during the celebration, this year dedicated in memory of Ceec Harrishburg z"l the founding president of IYIM-Israel, were Nitzanim Rabbi Shai Finkelstein and Rabbi Chanoch Yeres, Director of the Judaic Heritage for the Deaf organization. Many major programs in Jerusalem have had a sign language interrupter. However, this event especially for deaf and hard of hearing, had several, located in various positions around the synagogue during the program, including on the bimah for the group aliyah.