Tel Yehudah Celebrates B'nai Mitzvah with Five TYniks

Tel Yehudah had the honor of calling up five members of our community to become B’nai Mitzvah on Monday, August 12, 2013.  These four chanichim (Mika Bekkerman, Zachary Mendes, Maxim Gurevitch, and David Shwarts) and one tsevet member (Liza Idomskaya) all gave up free time throughout the session to study to become B’nai Mitzvah and learn about this important step toward entering Jewish adulthood.

Each of them spent a lot of time thinking about what becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah meant to them and each of their reasons for taking this journey were unique.  But, it is clear that becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah was a necessary declaration of the significance Judaism plays in each of their lives.  “Having a Bat Mitzvah for me is like a gateway to Judaism and marks the beginning of my journey through life as a Jew,” Mika asserted.  Liza echoed that she “want(s) to make a public commitment to my Jewish values and show my friends and community how serious I am about taking responsibility for my Jewish destiny.”  They each shared their feelings about the experience in their own words with the rest of the TY community and we can honestly say that the entire camp was moved and ecstatic to be able to share this experience with these five amazing individuals.


Hello Tel Yehudah,

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mika Bekkerman.  These three weeks at camp have been such an exciting and amazing journey for me not only because of the peulot and onegs and rikud and shira sessions, but because of the hard work a few others and I have done in order to become a Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Becoming a Bat Mitzvah is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now, but just haven’t gotten the chance. There have been some physical, emotional and mental complications standing in the way.  But now, TY has given me the opportunity to have a Bat Mitzvah in a community of people who support me and make me feel comfortable.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about where I come from in terms of family lineage.  My parents, and their parents (so, my grandparents), all come from Odessa, Ukraine. They were under strict communist rule and therefore weren’t allowed to practice any form of Judaism. No one knew how or what to do, therefore the traditions did not stay in my family.  After having my sister in 1982 and immigrating to America in 1990, things started to change. Hiding their religion was not much of a problem, but the fact that they never practiced Judaism became the problem.

Because of that, my sister grew up not knowing the religion and Judaism continued not being a major aspect of the Bekkerman family.  When I was born, I too, was not raised to be very Jewish and was not steeped in the traditions. The difference was that I wanted to be. I wanted to have a Bat Mitzvah, I wanted to know the prayers, and I wanted to have Shabbat dinners with my family.  That is why I’m here.  I am the first person in my family that I know of, to have a Bat Mitzvah, the first to proudly go to a Jewish school and the first to want to continue the Jewish traditions. Having a Bat Mitzvah for me is like a gateway to Judaism and marks the beginning of my journey through life as a Jew.

In this week’s parsha, Shofetim, it discusses having a king rule over the Land of Israel. The rules for the king state that he must take responsibility over the people and the land. Similarly, I’m taking responsibility to make decisions for myself.  I will benefit from good decisions and suffer the consequences if I make a wrong decision.  As a Bat Mitzvah, I’m also in charge of my Jewish practices and will become a leader in my family for Jewish traditions. One important value in Judaism that I will take on as a Bat Mitzvah is tzedaka, which means social justice.  Donating your time is just as important as donating money. I can put this into practice by volunteering to help those less fortunate. I got a great start last week on my social action trip in New York where I spent time with victims of child abuse and prepared food for people struggling to put food on the table in the Midnight Run.

All in all, this day is very special to me and I would like to thank those who were instrumental in making this day happen. First of all, I’d like to thank Jacob Scheer for leading this class and giving up his time to make this day unforgettable. Most importantly, I’d like to thank my parents for their love and patience and the opportunity to grow up to be a Jewish woman. I wish they could be here with me. I’d also like to thank every single one of my friends, both here at TY as well as those back home, for their unconditional love and support throughout everything. A big and special thanks to Bunk 4A and Chug BUHL  HYX. This summer would not have been the same without you. I love you all!  Lastly, a huge thanks to Tel Yehudah for this amazing opportunity. You have made being Jewish real to me. Thank you! Enjoy your day!


Hey everyone! Welcome. This summer I have been exploring my Jewish identity and I have enjoyed figuring out what it means to be a spiritual person. I’m having my Bat Mitzvah today because I think it is a major step in this fun growing experience. I chose to have my Bat Mitzvah because I want to make a public commitment to my Jewish values and show my friends and community how serious I am about taking responsibility for my Jewish destiny.

Camp is a magical place. I feel a special connection to all the natural wonders surrounding us here every day. You know the sense of wonder you feel when you look up at the mountain of evergreens across the Delaware and notice the beautiful greens of the trees and the pink sky during a sunset?

This appreciation of nature also has roots in the Jewish tradition. In the creation story, the Torah says that G-d looked at all creations and said it was “very good”. I, too, look at all these creations of G-d and marvel at how beautifully and peacefully they can all coexist. However, something I don’t appreciate is the amount of destruction to the environment humans cause. Many people don’t see the long term effects humans will have on Earth’s environment and resources. Small practices like turning off the lights when leaving a room or just recycling, have huge impacts on lessening the rate of destruction of the environment caused by humans. I’m someone who believes that everything happens for a reason so it’s interesting that this week’s Torah portion includes the important lesson of Ba’al Tashchit. It’s great that, after this summer where I’ve been learning so much about the environment and growing my concerns for it, this week’s Torah portion includes a law about conserving nature and the environment. Ba’al Tashchit means not being wasteful. In the Torah, this lesson specifically refers to not cutting down fruit bearing trees in a time of war; however, it has been interpreted as a lesson against wasting any resources that are/can be useful to humanity. While I think it’s important to not only think of resources and the environment as which ones are useful to humanity, I do agree that people should stay mindful of all the resources we use up on this planet.

This idea of Ba’al Tashchit is much easier to live by than most people think. Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to recycle and turn lights off when they’re not need, as well as not waste food or litter. Nature holds the most peaceful and beautiful aspects of the world and I strongly believe that, with this Bat Mitzvah, I am ready to fully take on the responsibility as a Jew and as an aware human being, to help conserve nature and the environment as much as I can.

To finish off, I’d like to thank you all for being here on this special day. I have felt so much support and appreciation through this journey and am incredibly thankful for all of it. I’d like to thank TY for inspiring me every day. Both the people and the nature that surrounds me inspires me so much and I couldn’t be more grateful. I want to thank my friends that have been here for me through laughs and tears alike, and have been amazing to me in my lifetime and during this summer. Last but not least, thank you Jacob Scheer for giving me this opportunity. You’ve led me through this journey and have taught me so much about the environment and about Judaism.


Good morning everyone. My name is Maxim Gurevich. Today, I become a Bar Mitzvah, which means “son of the commandments” in Hebrew. Traditionally, a Bar Mitzvah is done at the age of 13. However, I never got that opportunity, so I am grateful that TY has this program. I am excited to become part of the Jewish community and accept the new responsibility of being an adult. All of my Jewish friends have had a Bar Mitzvah and big parties. Today, Bar Mitzvahs are more about the party than they are about the responsibility and significance of the commandments. I value new responsibilities more than the party aspect, which is why I decided to have my Bar Mitzvah here where I share my celebration with my Bar Mitzvah classmates. It is very meaningful to me to have all of camp celebrate my Bar Mitzvah because I’ve never had this many people at a party before.

This week’s parsha is called Shofetim, which means judges. This portion deals with the issue of how Israel is to be governed. Moses told the Israelites that if they were to choose a king that he be one of the people, not have many wives, and not be too wealthy. I think that the rules for having a king who is honest and responsible relates to today. If politicians of today followed the rules in the Torah, then we would have a more just, peaceful, and equitable society. In my personal life, I take this to mean keeping promises or Nedarim. Nedarim means promises that we make to other people, to ourselves, and to God. There are few things more important to a Jew than keeping our word. And that’s why we should only promise to do something if we really mean it. Promises are like verbal contracts which obligate us to carry them out. As the Torah states: “When you make a promise to the Lord, your God, do not put off fulfilling it.” When you make a promise, it should be for a good purpose. Make a promise to be helpful, to be patient, to be an honest friend, not to be selfish, not to fight, to avoid eating junk food, to study harder, to help the needy, to light Shabbat candles every Friday night, or to take better care of your pet animal. A good king, politician, and friend would listen to you and make decisions for your benefit. A great king, politician, and friend would listen to everyone, and act on his decisions, personally making the community better, stronger, closer, and larger.

I have many people to thank for helping me get to this day, including my parents, for sending me to TY, TY in general, for providing this great opportunity, Jacob Scheer, for helping me make this speech, and learn about Bar Mitzvahs, and my Bar Mitzvah classmates for joining me on this journey and sharing this day. Finally I’d like to thank all of you for being here and encouraging me to take on the responsibility of being a Jewish adult.


Hi, my name is Zach Mendes.  Thank you all for coming to my Bar Mitzvah this morning.  This Bar Mitzvah is especially meaningful for me because it has been ten years since my first time at camp.  My first time as a camper was in 2004 when I was in Nitzanim (the youngest age group at Sprout Lake) and now in 2013, I have the opportunity to share this special day with my friends and everyone here.

Young Judaea helped me realize that I am a Zionist and that’s why I chose to have my Bar Mitzvah this summer.  What being a young Zionist means to me is being somebody who helps others and helps change the world through tikun olam.  Maimonides once said that anonymous charity is the highest form of tzedakah, so I try to do anonymous acts of kindness whenever I can; especially raising money for cancer organizations like Livestrong and St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Organization. This is particularly meaningful to me because I watched my mom fight breast cancer and survive it, along with my grandma.

This week’s torah portion has the final commandment that Moses gives the people of Israel.  He says that everyone should carry around a mini-torah.  Today, I carry around my own torah, it is not a literal torah, but a symbolic torah made of my fondest camp memories and my value as a Jew, especially tikun olam, and doing nice things for others even when there is no reward of prize.  The true prize is the feeling inside.

My Bar Mitzvah means a lot to me and I would like to thank a lot of people.  First, thank you mom – you have helped me through hard times and I am so grateful that you are here today.  You have inspired me never to lose hope.  One time, I remember your blog post when you started losing your hair and you kept on believing that you would get better.  I would also like to thank my grandparents for support me and being here today.  I would like to show appreciation for Tel Yehudah and Young Judaea.  I have been going to YJ camps for ten years and I have shared so many great experiences with my friends and madrichim.  I would also like to thank Jacob Scheer for mentoring me through this process and my Bar Mitzvah classmates.  To many more wonderful experiences like this one and another ten great years in Young Judaea!  Thank you.

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