Three girls approach
the same milestone
from different directions
Special to The Jewish News
omorrow morning, Dana Rosen
will become a bat mitzvah at
Temple Israel, a Reform syna-
gogue in West Bloomfield. At
the same time, Ilona Gale will
become a bat mitzvah at Cong.
Shaarey Zedek, a Conservative
synagogue in Southfield, and Jessica
Kirzner will celebrate her bat mitz-
vah at an Orthodox synagogue, Young
Israel of Southfield. While each will
reach a milestone and become
"daughters of the commandments;'
they will have arrived at their
destination via different paths.
As a student at Temple Israel,
Dana Rosen participated in a new pro-
gram called the "13 Mitzvot." She
received a booklet about the program
which offers the following explana-
tion: "Your bar or bat mitzvah will
symbolize your acceptance of the
adult obligation to do mitzvot, or com-
mandments. Thus you will become a
son or daughter of the mitzvot, for you
will be obligated to do them."
"At the age of 13, a Jewish child's
status in life changes and he or she
becomes obligated to do mitzvot," ex-
plains Rabbi Paul Yedwab of Temple
Israel. "The term mitzvah come from
the Hebrew word 'to command! It is
something we feel commanded to do.
The interpretation of mitzvot changes
through the centuries, and also from
Jew to Jew, but it has generally come
to mean 'good deed: "
The program at Temple Israel re-
quires that all b'nai mitzvah select 13
mitzvot, one for each year of their life,
and perform them before they are
called to the Torah.
"The -students are asked to per-
form 13 mitzvot they would not or-
dinarily have performed," Rabbi Yed-
wab says. "Each category in the pro-
gram is one of the obligations without
measure prescribed in the morning
prayer service. The prayer reads:
"These are the obligations without
measure, whose reward, too, is
without measure? "
Rabbi Yedwab believes the mitz-
vot program creates a new commit-
ment for the students and makes
them consciously aware of the
changes in their status. "Most of the
students feel they are being asked to
make a commitment and an accoun-
ting of themselves publicly which
they have never been asked to do
The booklet Dana received also
served as a mitzvah diary. In addition
to listing the mitzvot she performed,
she was asked to record her feelings
and reactions to them.
"When I got the booklet, I discuss-
ed it with my parents before I started
working on it;' Dana says. "The
booklet helped me realize that I do
good deeds regularly."
The categories in the booklet are:
honor mother and father, perform acts
of loving kindness, attend the house
of worship regularly, welcome the
stranger, visit the sick, rejoice with
the bride and groom, console the
Ilona Gale regards her bat mitzvah as a milestone in her life.
bereaved, pray with sincerity, make
peace where there is strife, and the
study of Torah is equal to them all
because it leads to them all.
Dana's mitzvot included atten-
ding services regularly, attending a
minyan, and baking sponge cake for
Passover and brownies for other
holidays. She is participating in a
twinning ceremony and has written
a letter to her twin in Russia.
"I also wrote a letter to a temple
member who is very ill in the hospital
to fulfill the 'visit the sick' category,"
Dana did not have to choose mitz-
vot from each of the ten categories.
Many of the mitzvot she selected fell
in the "make peace where there is
strife" category. "I tried to make
peace among two friends who were
fighting;' she recalls "I also listened
to a friend's problems and tried to
help her with her situation.
"When I met with the rabbi we
discussed the mitzvot and their mean-
ing. We discussed people who are left
out and teased because they. are dif-
ferent. I tried to be friends with a boy
who is always excluded. We discuss-
ed my twinning and Rabbi Loss (of
Temple Israel) especially liked the
fact that I am trying hard to get along
better with my brother."
As acts of loving kindness, called
gemilut chasadim in Hebrew, Dana
wrote a poem for her best -friend's bat
mitzvah and stopped biting her nails
to please her parents.
According to Rabbi Yedwab, the 13
Mitzvot Program is a family-based
program in which parents and
children often perform mitzvot
together. "Some families participate
in the Mazon program, which is a pro-
ject to feed the hungry. Some students
initiate saying the brachot (blessings)
or hamotzi (the blessing over bread)
with their family.
"In addition, many of the students
have visited nursing homes, and
others have underscored the meaning
of tzedakah by donating a portion of
their bar or bat mitzvah presents to
According to Dana's mother, Rita
Rosen, the mitzvot program brought
an awareness to Dana and caused her
to reflect on things she hadn't thought
about. "It made her feel good about