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Further installments will appear over the next months. The hero of my childhood was my brother Benjamin, five years my senior. Children in immigrant families tend to acclimatize much faster than their elders, and Ben may have begun to function as a co-caretaker for our family even before the summer of when we left Romania for Canada.
In one of our passport pictures taken in Bucharest, he stands, nine years old, leaning protectively over Mother and me—the same position he would assume in other photographs over the years. In the way our family marked the passage of time, the ceremony took place after the liquidations of the ghettos of Vilna, Bialystok, and Kovno and a year after the Russians fought off the Germans at Stalingrad.
Anxieties must have been running high that morning because Writing a bar mitzvah speech for my brother, who had brought me by the hand to the synagogue, forgot about me after the service.
It turned out that no one had noticed my absence, but being so suddenly on my own may account for why the rest of the day stayed sharp in my memory. His wife and daughters remained in Poland until it was too late to help them escape.
Although they would ultimately manage to survive, that spring their fate was still uncertain. This uncle skipped the synagogue service and that afternoon, as mother would recount it, arrived late at the more intimate gathering in our home to berate her for celebrating while his family was in Nazi hands.
His accusation may have felt more brutal than he had intended because of what she already knew of the fate of her extended family.
Call ours the Guilted Age. It was at this afternoon gathering of family and friends that Ben gave his bar-mitzvah speech, parts of which—having heard him practice—I once could have quoted by heart.
He spoke about The Forgotten Ally, a book by the Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Paassen that no one else in the room was likely to have read. Van Paassen had begun reporting from Palestine under the British Mandate in the mids, and he covered the large-scale Arab anti-Jewish riots of Impressed by the Jews and by the righteousness of their cause, he could not fathom why the British favored Arab marauders over proven Jewish allies.
His disquiet only increased after the outbreak of the war when the massive help to Britain being supplied by the yishuv made a vivid contrast to the pro-Axis treachery of most Arab leaders.
How bravely this journalist wrote in defense of the battling Jewish community of Palestine! Here is what I knew: He had conceived and written the talk without adult supervision, having learned more about the political situation from his shortwave radio than our parents or teachers did from their newspapers.
Imagining our home as a lighthouse, I can see him rotating its beam from Europe to the Middle East, shifting our attention from the past to the future, from the war we hoped would soon end to the work that lay ahead of us. By age thirteen his responsibilities extended beyond the family to the Jewish people.
II My own rite of passage four years later at age twelve was spectacularly different. By then the war was over, but bat mitzvahs for girls were then still unknown and it would not have occurred to me to want one.
Not that we girls were neglected. Following the example of prosperous local Jewish families, I would have been entitled to a Sweet Sixteen, a home party like a miniature debutante ball.
But at twelve I had no expectation of a formal rite of passage.
Nonetheless, I was granted the greatest coming-of-age any Jewish child ever experienced. I turned twelve on May 13, Given the seven-hour time difference between Montreal and Tel Aviv, my assumption of Jewish responsibility coincided with the fifth day of Iyarwhen David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the Jewish state.
Two days later my parents and I were among the estimated 20, Jews who poured into the stands of the Montreal Forum for a celebration grander than the one for the Montreal Canadiens when they won the Stanley Cup in Our principal was among the speakers, and representatives from the newly founded state brought us greetings.
When I later saw film clips of the Jews dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, I thought our excitement had outdone theirs. My parents had often taken me along to commemorative evenings for the annihilated ghettos of Warsaw and Vilna. They were held early in the spring when the audience in heavy overcoats made the crowded halls feel like communities under siege.
On our way into the Forum I caught sight of my older brother. All over the lobby, clusters of young people from the various youth organizations were holding large Israeli and Canadian flags the way firemen hold up rescue nets, urging us to throw in money, and there was Ben with his group, lifting the corner of a flag that already seemed heavy enough to assure the Jewish future in Israel.
Whenever they went, Ben would be going with them. Ben and Ruth with their cousin Ralph Roskies. As part of our celebration we recited the solemn remembrance prayer for the murdered Jews of Europe.
Even our knowledge that the country was under attack from surrounding Arab armies functioned only to raise the stakes of our involvement:A week later, I realized I hadn’t really listened to my son’s Bar Mitzvah speech.
He’d said, “You can’t change people’s beliefs to match your own.” I lifted the phone to call my brother. After my Bar Mitzvah, I stopped attending Hebrew school (some kids went on for a couple more years to be confirmed) and basically lost interest in becoming more acquainted with the more religious aspects of my .
A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a true culmination of a twelve or thirteen-year journey for a child and his/her family. When a Mom or Dad takes the microphone to express how they feel about their son or daughter I love to watch the raw display of emotion on the parents’ face and how special the child feels listening to his/her parents’ words.
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Bar Mitzvah speech Your bar mitzvah is coming up, and you know what that means: delivering a speech in front of your family and all the guests gathered for the ceremony.
Before you book your ticket to Siberia, read on—writing a speech is easier than you think. In the case of one family for whom I wrote speeches for dad, older brother, bar mitzvah boy and mum, Writing my "dad" speech for the event was a pretty daunting process.
As luck would have it searching for "bat mitzvah parent speech" on the. May 8, We are immensely proud.