update deskJewish & Israeli Holidays

Great Neck Jewish community hosts bat mitzvah in J’lem for 22 terror victims

“We added the celebration to our itinerary and it was one of the main highlights of our trip."

A group of women from the Jewish community in Great Neck, New York, holds a bat mitzvah party in Jerusalem for 22 girls, all victims of terror, March 2024. Photo by Sharon Altshul.
A group of women from the Jewish community in Great Neck, New York, holds a bat mitzvah party in Jerusalem for 22 girls, all victims of terror, March 2024. Photo by Sharon Altshul.

A group of 20 inspired women from the Jewish community in Great Neck, New York, recently partnered to create a special and moving bat mitzvah party in Jerusalem for 22 girls, all victims of terror.

The story began with survivors of the Oct. 7 Nova music festival massacre, Eden Shmuel and Shira Cohen, who brought the story of the harrowing Hamas onslaught to Jews in the United States. 

The two went on a speaking tour in the U.S. earlier this year to share their personal stories of pain and resilience. Although a 40-person women’s solidarity mission from the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America (UMJCA) in Great Neck, had recently returned from Israel, Shmuel and Cohen’s stories inspired a drive to plan a second mission. UMJCA decided in cooperation with the Jerusalem-based OneFamily organization to host a bat mitzvah celebration in Jerusalem. 

“We all had chills when we heard of this idea from OneFamily, especially because our largely Persian Jewish community has a group bat mitzvah called a jamati every year,” Natalie Kamali, one of the UMJCA mission leaders, told JNS. “So, we added the jamati to our itinerary and it was one of the main highlights of our trip,” she added.

The bat mitzvah party had the elements of a lavish celebration; an elegant multi-course meal, lively dancing music with a DJ—and a table laden full of gifts from the UMJCA group for each celebrant.

Each of the bat mitzvah girls carries a story of personal loss due to terrorism and war. Noa Fisch, for example, lost her brother, Capt. Eitan Fisch from the Armored Corps, who was killed in Dec. in Gaza.

Two of the girls had fathers who were policemen killed in Sderot on Oct. 7. One is from Kiryat Gat from an Ethiopian background and the other family was new to Sderot with Moroccan roots. Their families have come together over the past months through tragedy.

For over 20 years, OneFamily, Israel’s largest organization supporting victims of terror and their families, has provided critical emotional, financial, and rehabilitative assistance to those impacted by terrorism. Led by founder and CEO Chantal Belzberg, the organization was recently named one of the 2024 recipients of the prestigious Genesis Prize.

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