Teaching the Next Generation about JNF

0117sofiaIn mid-November, three generations of family members came together to celebrate the bat mitzvah of Redondo Beach, CA, resident Sofia Rosado. What made this particularly special was the venue: the B’nei Mitzvah Remembrance Wall in American Independence Park near Jerusalem. The celebration was part of a trip to Israel organized by Sofia’s grandparents, Robert and Cheryl Fey of Palm Springs, CA, to introduce the teen to the work they do for Israel through Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The B’nei Mitzvah Remembrance Wall, nestled in the Judean Mountains above Beit Shemesh, was erected by JNF to honor boys and girls who have reached the age of bar or bat mitzvah by “twinning” them with a child who perished in the Holocaust before having reached his or her special milestone. The Wall is shaped like a Torah scroll and glass tiles representing donations to JNF are mounted on it, each inscribed with the individual name, hometown, and bar or bat mitzvah date of the modern-day honoree, as well as the name and home country of a “twin.” Sofia was paired with Miriam Frost of Bilgoraj, Poland.

“These plaques are the only place in the world where the names of these young victims are memorialized,” Liat Itzhak-Herzog, director of the USA desk at JNF in Israel, told the group, which included Sofia’s grandparents, parents Robin and Carlos, brother Daniel, aunt Julie Fey Clark, uncle Scot, and cousin Tommy. Some 1.5 million children perished during the Holocaust.

“This ceremony was a surprise for Sofia,” Robin said after the ceremony marking the unveiling of Sofia’s plaque. “We marked her bat mitzvah at home last Shabbat at the Chabad House where we attend, and she will be reading the Torah at the Kotel tomorrow, but today’s ceremony was something her grandfather arranged without her knowledge.” In fact, Sofia was nearly speechless as she listened to Itzhak-Herzog explain that the idea of the Wall is to establish a link between children of this generation and those of the Holocaust generation who died.

“Cheryl and I wanted to show Sofia, her brother, and cousin what JNF is, and what work we are doing here in Israel,” Robert said. Owner of Fey’s Canyon Realtors, Robert is a former president of JNF’s Palm Springs and Desert Region Board and currently serves as chairperson of the Coachella Valley Advisory Council. “So, we thought, ‘What better way to start this education than to come to this place and show the kids first-hand?”

The Fays, through their regional board, have been involved in a number of JNF projects throughout Israel, including the construction of a new synagogue in the Negev community of Carmit, the Be’er Sheva River Walk, a daycare center and playground in Givot Bar, and two group homes at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a state-of-the-art facility for the developmentally disabled.

“The idea to come to Israel was actually Sofia’s,” Cheryl noted. “A couple of summers ago, Robin mentioned that Sofia had suggested having her bat mitzvah in Israel. Then Robin said she wanted Sofia to learn about the work we are involved in with JNF in Israel.” And so the idea of a family trip to Israel was hatched.

“This trip is really beginning to open up their eyes,” Robert said. “They’re seeing a part of history and where they fit into it in a way that they wouldn’t have if we hadn’t made the trip.”

“I’m delighted,” Cheryl added. “I think we’ll have lots to talk about with them for many years to come.”

June Glazer is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.


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