When Virtual Mitzvah Becomes Reality…

Bat Mitzvah is a double-pronged mitzvah affair. The daughter of determined
parents who felt that it was of paramount importance to mark their youngest
daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem, Sarit incorporated mitzvot into
both the Israel event and the upcoming Cleveland Shabbat luncheon.

Invitations were sent to the Toltzis
family guest list inviting them to celebrate at the Montefiore Restaurant
under the windmill in Yemin Moshe. Guests were further invited to donate
new art supplies that the Toltzis family would deliver to educational programs
in the southern region of Israel. The added note card read: ” Help us to
complete Sarit’s bat mitzvah by donating arts and crafts materials to PACT,
the Parents and Children Together Program sponsored by the Jewish Federation
of Cleveland. This program is devoted to developing critical early education
interventions for Ethiopian-Israeli preschoolers to ensure they reach their
rich potential by the time they start primary education with their native
Israeli cousins. We will carry your gifts to Israel ….Join us in fulfilling
this simple but enormously important investment in Israel’s future during
this intense moment in the nation’s history, by delivering your contribution
to our home …”

Sarit invited me
to join her family when they met Ethiopian-Israelis at educational institutes
in Kiryat Gat. Accompanied by local PACT leaders, we visited pre-school classes
where the two-year children of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis are
together in a pre-school kindergarten. “We help bridge the cultural and educational
gaps between the populations and prepare them together for elementary school,”
explained the nursery school teacher.

Members of the ulpanulpan
program, in our presence, requested that the current 2-day program be extended
to 5 days. The PACT organizers promised this would happen in September. Time
to study is a mixed blessing: these adults have time to study now since most
of them have been laid off from the Bagir Textile Factory.
Hebrew lessons] insisted on being photographed with Sarit when they heard
she was visiting Israel as part of her Bat Mitzvah celebration. Hungry for
knowledge, the men and women enrolled in the

A major part of the Toltzis family
week-long trip was spent on shopping for made-in-Israel products to take
back to Cleveland.

  • They
    bought challah covers, kippot, dinner napkins, and tablecloths at the factory
    store of Mini-Gifts.
  • They bought Havdallah
    essence at Lemon Bottle.
  • They bought note
    cards with images of the Kabbalah at the workshop
    of David Friedman.
  • They bought 100-year
    old photographs of Eretz Yisrael that were originally shot in 3-dimensions.
  • They ordered roses
    grown in the Negev to be shipped to Cleveland from Myron and
  • They bought glass
    ware from local vitrage artist, Shadmi.
  • They bought Ethiopian
    crafts from Almaz
    Ethiopian Crafts.

  • And then they got on the plane, their
    huge suitcases that had been filled with art supplies on the way over, were
    newly filled with home-grown goodies for the folks back home. Now that’s
    what I call a double-pronged mitzvah!

    Mazal Tov, Sarit!

    Text and photos by J. Isaacson.

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