Many Jewish families with children approaching their 13th birthday have likely thought about how best to approach planning for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration. Like any major event or family oriented party, a number of options are considered and usually it involves a lot of stress.
Our daughter, Rebecca is turning 13 this November and we too, considered various options, particularly once our Bat Mitzvah date was quickly approaching. We had heard about the trip that Rabbi Roos does to Israel every summer since he joined the temple as Senior Rabbi. On this trip, Rabbi Roos performs the Bat Mitzvah celebration in Jerusalem in a beautiful outside ceremony while escorting the entire group around Israel for almost two weeks. After much discussion, this option became very attractive to us for the following reasons:
- we have a small extended family
- a big service and party was a poor fit for our family
- our resources would be better applied for family travel and exploration
- this might be a great way to better connect with Temple Sinai
We can safely report that taking this trip to Israel was the best family decision we ever made. Our family of four (Steve, Sue, Rebecca and Julia) all went along with one grandparent (Carol). We were joined by Rabbi Roos and his family along with two other Temple Sinai families who we did not know. In total, this trip had two Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
The trip actually exceeded our already high expectations. We developed great friendships with the other two families, watched our daughter become a Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem looking over the old city and formed a closer bond with Rabbi Roos and his family. We all know that Rabbi Roos is a great Rabbi but most congregation members likely do not know that he is very approachable, accommodating and an absolute pleasure to travel with. Rabbi Roos was always lending a helping hand to the kids and to the grandparents on the trip. He was there to provide our youngest daughter, Julia, an explanation about Yad Vashem so she could understand its importance and relevance in Jewish world history. So, in terms of connecting with Temple Sinai…mission accomplished!
Despite the unrest occurring in Israel during our trip, we had absolutely no stress nor any issues. The tour guide Rabbi Roos secured was one of the best guides I ever have had in all my travels. All eight children on the trip bonded and spent as much time on land as they did in water. The itinerary allowed for plenty of unscheduled time for you to explore as well as seeing the major sights such as Masada, the Dead Sea and key places in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Aside from the Bat Mitzvah, the most memorable part of the trip was gaining a deeper understanding of the Jewish people from antiquity to date, the birth of the Jewish state and the geo-political factors that drove it after World War 2.
While we have always considered ourselves “culturally” Jewish (or as they say in Israel, secular), we have attended temple on the high holy days. After this trip, we have more of a calling to attend other services, do a Shabbat dinner and learn more of the prayers. This was all driven by the time we spent in Israel with Rabbi Roos. Not only do we feel more connected to him but also to our Judaism.
In summary, this trip touched our lives on many levels:
- It was the first big trip we took as a family
- We gained great insight into Israel and Jewish history
- Developed great new friendships
- Have better appreciation for being Jewish, our Temple and Rabbi Roos
We hope that you strongly consider this option when the time comes for your family.
-Sue and Steve Schiffman