Twinning Opportunities

By: Gail Greenberg

In the 1960s-80s, it was common for a bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah to “twin" with a Jewish child in the Soviet Union who, because of religious oppression, was not able to become bar mitzvah at his own service. Today, the distress of Jews in Russia is somewhat eased, but many children there still don’t have the benefit of religious education. There are now also new opportunities to twin with children in Israel, including recent Ethiopian emigrants, or with a Righteous Gentile who helped to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. There are even a few programs of “Holocaust Twinning" where the student shares his experience with the memory of a child who perished in the Holocaust before reaching the bar mitzvah milestone. Here are the details:

Twinning with an Israeli AMIT Child – For $250, your child can be twinned with a less fortunate Israeli child in an AMIT school. Your gift pays for an Oneg Shabbat for the Israeli bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah; your child will receive a bronze State of Israel Medal and a personalized certificate. Twins are encouraged to become pen pals. Look Now

Twinning with an Israeli Child through Emunah of America. This organization provides a broad range of social services in Israel including housing, care and education of neglected and abused children and settlement of immigrant families. They sell “Simcha Share" certificates in multiples of $36; a contribution of $360 or more earns a medallion in addition to certificate recognizing the donation. Look Now

Twinning with a Russian Child – The Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal will match you with a child in the former Soviet Union. The twins get to share experiences and learn from each other. When it is time to become a bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah, the American spiritually includes his/her twin in the ceremony. www.bacjrr.org

Twinning with an Ethiopian Child – The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ) matches children worldwide with Ethiopian Jewish children living in Israel. In addition to the personal benefits of the friendships that often develop between twins, your financial gift helps to improve quality of life for all the Ethiopian Jewish children in the community. The council also offers handmade crafts and gifts that can be purchased for the bar mitzvah party. Look Now

Twinning with a Rescuer – This program of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous allows a child to help the Jewish community repay a collective debt of gratitude. The child selects a particular rescuer to be twinned with and makes a donation to the JFR. The suggested minimum gift is $180. The bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah receives a Twinning Certificate and a presentation can be made from the bimah if your rabbi approves. Look Now

Holocaust Twinning – There is no national program I’m aware of that is available to all, but you could easily do this yourself. Visit the website of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles for biographies of children lost in the Holocaust (Look Now); choose the child whose story most touches you. Tell his/her story at your child’s service, make a donation in the child’s memory to an appropriate charity, and pledge that you will hold that child’s memory in your heart.

A particularly good charity for Holocaust Twinning would be The Blue Card, the only agency in the United States that provides cash to needy Holocaust survivors and, when necessary, to their psychologically affected children. It was founded over 60 years ago by a group of compassionate people, themselves recent refugees from Nazi tyranny. This financial aid is rendered by check directly to the needy with a minimum of bureaucratic red tape. The Blue Card is a nation-wide organization that fills a need unmet by other agencies and public programs. Visit their website at www.bluecardfund.org.

Another good charity would be the Claims Conference – Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Their mission over their “50-year history has always been to secure what we consider a small measure of justice for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. We have pursued this goal through a combination of negotiations, disbursing funds to individuals and organizations, and seeking the return of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust." www.claimscon.org

For more information on Holocaust Twinning from an organization running a local project in the Washington, D.C. area, contact Sam Spiegel, coordinator of the “Remember-a-Child Project", at (301) 881-2454.

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