update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

More than100 orphans celebrate their bar mitzvah at Western Wall

The annual event, organized by the Colel Chabad charity group, was nearly canceled this year amid soaring tensions between Israel and Iran.

Refael (center) celebrates his bar mitzvah as part of an event organized by Colel Chabad. Credit: Mendy Kornet.
Refael (center) celebrates his bar mitzvah as part of an event organized by Colel Chabad. Credit: Mendy Kornet.

A total of 122 orphans celebrated their bar mitzvahs at Jerusalem’s Western Wall this week as part of an event organized by the Colel Chabad charity.

The celebration was nearly canceled in the aftermath of Saturday night’s first-ever direct Iranian attack on Israel, when the Islamic Republic fired 300-plus armed drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles at the Jewish state. 

“This year’s bar mitzvah celebration is certainly different than any other year, but it reminds us that we need to be here for families in need more than ever,” said Rabbi Zalman Duchman, Colel Chabad’s director of development.

“The painfully large number of orphaned children all across Israel need to know that life will go on for them, and they deserve to have happy days like these,” he continued.

At the event, which is held annually on the 11th of Nissan—the Hebrew birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson—each participant received his own set of tefillin and new clothing for the occasion.

“We are here to give these kids strength, but in truth, it is often them and their mothers who give us strength by inspiring us through their grit and tenacity to carry on in the face of some of the most difficult tragedies,” added Duchman.

After the ceremony, the families attended a gala event in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center hall, where they enjoyed a three-course meal, concert and photo session, and were given gifts.

The event was sponsored by the Shlusberg Family and the Meromim Foundation.

“I don’t have a husband, and my two older children live abroad, so I was forced to recognize that I wouldn’t be able to give Refael the type of celebration and experience he deserves for becoming a bar mitzvah,” said Gila, who lost her husband to cancer.

Gila faced numerous health challenges since her husband’s passing and suffered the death of a nephew on Oct. 7.

“I am so deeply grateful to everyone at Colel Chabad who thought to make this happen, and we can promise that this is a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives,” she added.

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