Each year in Siberia, dozens of young people celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs during a week-long JDC-supported family retreat.
The event, held this summer in Novosibirsk, is coordinated by JDC and made possible by the continued support and tireless efforts of JDC board member Elaine Berke.
The annual ceremony, held for the ninth time this summer, is “the central event in the life of the Jewish communities in Siberia and the Russian Far East,” says Boris Boguslavsky, director of JDC’s office in the region.
This year, more than 50 people from eight cities across Siberia participated.
Iliya "Eliyahu" Kazakov, of Kemerovo, Russia, said he considers the ceremony to be his "spiritual passport" to the global Jewish people.
"In Russia, the age of 13 doesn't mean anything but thanks to this program and the rite of passage of a bar mitzvah, it is a big deal. For us it's not just a ceremony. It's something bigger than one week or one day -- it’s something that will be with us forever," the 15-year-old said. "It’s a dream come true."
Darina "Leora" Valento, another 15-year-old from Kemerovo, said her bat mitzvah has "piqued" her interest in furthering her connection to her Jewish heritage, changing her in ways she's not yet able to fully process.
"I've changed my point of view about being Jewish. I can't really explain it right now since I'm still digesting it all but something inside me is definitely different," she said. "As soon as I heard some Hebrew words, I wanted to hear and learn the language. I've met so many wonderful people that I'll be friends with for a lifetime."
For 100 years, JDC has operated off the Talmudic principle of "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la zeh" -- that all Jews are responsible for one another.
For Robert "Ronen” Sherbakov of Novosibirsk, that's something that resonates deeply.
"Having completed my bar mitzvah, I want to further my knowledge of Hebrew, Israel, and Jewish values. I really enjoyed the ceremony and the fact that I learned Jewish prayers," the 13-year-old said. "Being Jewish gives me a special type of responsibility, and I don't take that lightly."
An Error Occurred
Logging In With One of Your Social Web Site Logins
Instead of trying to remember a bunch of special username/password combinations to log in to different web sites that you visit, you can now link your account on this web site to your account on one (or more) of the social media web sites shown and log in with the same username/password combination that you use on that social web site to log in to our site.
To provide this connection in a secure manner, we use Gigya, a social network connection provider that works behind the scenes to make safe, secure connections between user accounts on different systems, such as popular social media web sites like Facebook and web sites like ours where you are actively involved in social issues and causes.
Each time you log in, Gigya uses special application programming interfaces (APIs) to establish the connection between the sites and validate your username and password. Neither our web site or Gigya receive or store your social network passwords.
In addition to reducing the number of logins you have to remember, connecting your accounts can make it quicker and easier to share an activity or cause you feel passionately about from our web site with your friends on your social web sites.
You can break the connection between your accounts at any time.