For the second year in a row, Ma’ayanot students, led by student leaders on the school’s Holiday Enhancement Committee, threw a bat mitzvah party for a local girl who would not otherwise have enjoyed a traditional bat mitzvah celebration. But this was no ordinary party; in the words of the bat mitzvah girl’s mother, “This was the best bat mitzvah ever. Not only was everything done to perfection, the outpouring of Ma’aynot love and ruach penetrated our souls and will stay with us forever.”
While many students were involved in executing the plan, four students, seniors Tamar Mendelson and Rosie Polonetsky and juniors Hannah Siegel and Avigayl Shapiro, were primarily responsible for planning the celebration.
The first issue the girls had to deal with was finding sponsors willing to donate goods and services for the event. Jeff Neckonoff of Azamra DJ donated his time and talent to infuse the celebration with music, passion and excitement; Kenny Yager of Five Star Caters provided enough party snacks to feed the entire Ma’ayanot student body as well as the bat mitzvah girl’s friends and family; Leora Engle (a Ma’ayanot alumna!) and Nina Klapper volunteered to lead dancing and games; Yuval Graneviz of Action Studios Photography went above and beyond to ensure that the celebration was captured in its entirety; and Chopstix of Teaneck provided food for the family-only after-party at a significant discount.
In addition to business sponsors, a number of individuals took part in the mitzvah as well: Dr. Amit and Mrs. Ellie Schwartz sponsored (l’aliyat nishamat Ilana Michal Schwartz, z”l) party favors, fancy paper goods, and the decorations that transformed Ma’ayanot’s lunchroom into an elegant event space, and Jonathan and Leah Adler sponsored the after-party for the bat mitzvah’s guests.
The girls worked on Torah learning projects with both the bat mitzvah girl and her mother, created a sign-in board and a video montage, prepared a chesed project for the bat mitzvah’s friends and planned an after-party dinner for 70 family members and friends of the bat mitzvah girl. In seeing the extent to which the girls attended to every detail with love and excitement, a close family friend of the bat mitzvah girl commented, “Anyone who ever wanted to know that mitzvot make you feel good, this would be the perfect example.”
While the Ma’ayanot students focused on the bat mitzvah girl and her family, the faculty focused on what their students accomplished. “We are incredibly proud of all the students who worked tirelessly on this event and put together a dream bat mitzvah,” noted Rabbi Zev Prince, the faculty member who supervised the production of the bat mitzvah celebration. “They did it with kavod and sensitivity for our bat mitzvah girl and her family. I really believe that they asked themselves, ‘What did I have at my bat mitzvah that made it so special and how can I make sure that this young girl has the same?’ It was important to them that she had nothing less. Our student volunteers quite literally did not leave a thing out.” Ms. Elana Flaumenhaft concurred, noting, “Our students are always looking for opportunities to enhance the lives of others, and I think that working on the bat mitzvah reminded and inspired them to appreciate their Judaism. We are really proud of what they’ve done for this bat mitzvah girl.”
Appreciation is often a two way street, and in reflecting on the experience of organizing the bat mitzvah, Tamar Mendelson noted, “The school stood behind us every step of the way. They let us plan on our own, but we knew they were watching, and if we needed to we could turn to them, but it was great to see what we could accomplish on our own.” Avigayil Shapiro was equally proud of what she and her fellow students accomplished: “After all the planning and preparation, it was amazing to see the excitement on the bat mitzvah’s face and the ruach in the room. I am so honored that I had the opportunity to participate in such a beautiful event. It was a rewarding experience for the entire Ma’ayanot community.”
In her remarks at the celebration, the bat mitzvah girl’s mother observed, “The ruach and simcha, spirit and joy, created by this party is a true example of what Ma’ayanot stands for.”
Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School is an all-girls Modern Orthodox High School in Teaneck, New Jersey. Ma’ayanot provides a mesorah-based Torah education within an environment that promotes midot, derech eretz and academic excellence across all disciplines.