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March 16, 1990 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I LOCAL NEWS 1

ATwist of Gold...

Bar Mitzvah Twinning
May Be Changing

SUSAN GRANT

Staff Writer

F

inding a Soviet Jewish
family to share long-
distance b'not mitzvah
celebrations with an Ameri-
can youngster has become
more difficult. The increase
in Jewish immigration from
the Soviet Union has shrunk
the number of available
youngsters.
Kathy Ozery is responsible
for matching Detroit chil-
dren with Soviet Jews who
are prevented by Soviet offi-
cials from observing their
own ceremony. Ozery, on the
staff of the Jewish Commun-
ity Council, has no plans to
stop the Soviet Jewry twinn-
ing program. But she has
begun searching for alter-
natives.
Although the b'not mitz-
vah twinning program has
taken off since beginning in
1980, the National Con-
ference on Soviet Jewry says
95 percent of Soviet Jews
who apply for emigration are
now being approved.
In the past two years there
have been a large number of
twinning requests and a
smaller pool of Jews forced
to remain in the Soviet
Union available for matches,
Ozery said. Figures show
there are 300 Jewish
refusnik families who can't
leave the Soviet Union. Not
all of these families have
children of bar mitzvah age.
To make sure everyone
who requests a twinning
partner gets one, Ozery must
use each Soviet child several
times.
"Some families find it a
little less personal," Ozery
said.
But Ozery tells American
Jews that even if a Soviet
child is matched with other
families, it does not lessen
the symbolism or the com-
mitment the American child
must make to the Soviet
family. As part of the twinn-
ing program, the bar mitz-
vah child writes letters, can
send packages and telephone
the Soviet family.
Interest in the plight of
Soviet Jews and the twinn-
ing program increased after
a Washington, D.C., protest
was held on behalf of Soviet
refusniks in December 1987,
she said. In 1988, 293
Detroit youngsters twinned
with Soviet Jews.
That figure declined in
1989 when 251 Detroit
families participated in the

program.
Despite the decrease in
Soviet refusniks, Detroit
Jews are still interested in
twinning with them, Ozery
said. However, Ozery is
beginning to look at alter-
natives for bar mitzvah age
children who want to do
more than read from the
Torah. One option may be
twinning with Ethiopian
Jews, but she has no plans
yet to establish such a pro-
gram.
Adat Shalom Synagogue
has already begun twinning
with Ethiopian Jews.
Rabbi Efry Spectre said
several families have par-
ticipated since September.
However, twinning with the
Ethiopians is less personal
than with Soviets Jews.
For security reasons, the E-
thiopian family is not iden-
tified even if the family lives
in Israel, he said. Ethiopian
Israelis worry that if the E-
thiopian government knew
about the twinning
ceremonies, those family
members who remain in the
African country may suffer
government reprisals.
Twinning with Ethiopians
usually involves financial
contributions on behalf of
the chosen family, which go
toward helping them settle
in Israel. Participants also
talk about the Ethiopian
situation during their bar or
bat mitzvah.
Whether b'not mitzvah
candidates choose to twin
with Soviets or Ethiopians,
they are still participating
in the mitzvah of redeeming
the captives, Rabbi Spectre
said.
"It is every Jew's respon-
sibility to see every Jew has
the opportunity to live free-
ly," he said.
Because he wants b'not
mitzvah candidates to get
involved in the community,
Rabbi Spectre also suggests
involvement in Mazon, the
Jewish Response To Hunger.
Mazon asks Jews for a self-
imposed three percent "tax"
on the cost of special events
such as a bar mitzvah. The
money goes to community
agencies that feed the
hungry.
While Rabbi Spectre offers
alternatives to twinning
with Soviet Jews, he has not
forgotten the plight of the
remaining refuseniks.
"Until the last Soviet Jew
is out who wants to leave, we
have the obligation to con-
tinue," he said. ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS 13

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