Photo Credit: Meir Pavlovsky
UMJCA and bat mitzvah participants together.

The United Mashadi Jewish Community of America (UMJCA) women’s solidarity mission partnered this week with the organization OneFamily to host a special bat mitzvah party in Jerusalem for Israeli girls who have lost a parent or sibling on or since October 7th.

A bat mitzvah is a time of joy, and achieving that during wartime is not an easy feat, especially when the girl has lost a parent or sibling to terrorism and war. Yet, despite the heaviness of grief, 22 newly bereaved Israeli girls took part in a group bat mitzvah celebration together with the 20 mission participants from Great Neck, New York.


The party included the elements you would expect to see at a Bat Mitzvah; dancing, an elegant multi-course meal, a professional photographer portrait backdrop, makeup, an art activity, speeches – and bat mitzvah gifts. Yet this party also included important guests, a combined experience, and words of comfort and inspiration for young women who are trying to live with unimaginable loss and suffering.

OneFamily CEO Chantal Belzberg put together the concept and schedule for the event. But the participants were particularly excited to include the mission in their schedule, given its parallel to the traditional annual group bat mitzvah in Great Neck, known as jamati in Farsi.

“We came here to bring joy, but it also brings us much joy,” said Nicole Ben Yehuda, a UMJCA representative. “It is a privilege to be with [these special young women]. We hope to maintain a connection and celebrate with these young women again.”

“At home, there is nothing we can do. We watch the news, and we’re angry. We came into a war, and Israelis uplifted us. This spirit is what we needed,” fellow Great Neck participant Jamie Kamall added.

Each of the honored bat mitzvah girls carries a story of personal loss due to terrorism and war.

Noa Fisch lost her brother, IDF Capt. Eitan Fisch from the Armored Corps, who was killed in December in Gaza.

Adele Ben Yiftach lost her father, Oren Ben Yiftach, in a terrorist attack on Israel’s Independence Day in 2022.

Talia Rauchberger lost her brother, Golani Captain Shilo Rauchberger, in battle near the Gaza border on October 7.

Belzberg addressed the lingering question of how one finds the strength to celebrate during this challenging period, one she has dealt with professionally and personally for many years, emphasizing the power of unity and tapping into the realization that we really are one family.

“As in any family, we enjoy being with each other and are thankful for the special connection we have. In this family, we celebrate even when it is not easy to do so, and we always feel embraced and accepted,” Belzberg said.

Special invited guests included the organization’s regional coordinators who work with each of the young women and their families on an ongoing basis, Rabbi Benji Levi, co-founder of Israel Impact Partners and former CEO of Mosaic, and Israeli Knesset Minister Idit Silman, who has been an active supporter of OneFamily for years.

“I am moved to see you here tonight. It is not a given that one would celebrate a bat mitzvah under these circumstances,” Silman said. “Your pain is not yours alone. It is shared by all of us, the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Levi spoke of the valor of the young women becoming Bat Mitzvah. “You are the Queen Esthers of today. Your bravery comes through every day – when you are with your family and friends, and in everything you do,” the rabbi said. “You are the absolute heroes of our generation. If a twenty-fifth book of the Tanach were meant to be written, you would be written in that.”

Rabbi Levy then gathered the girls and their guests and led them in the traditional Jewish blessing that parents give their daughters, full of emotion from the whole room.

“To come to a nation that can pull this off beautifully, sensitively, and with the pure aim to make people happy in dark times – it’s incredible,” participant Stephanie Aziz commented. “Tonight was the highlight of our trip!”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.