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Student holding a small Torah and smiling

Raising the Bar (Mitzvah)

In the midst of everything going in the recent weeks and months, two milestones in our B’nei Mitzvah Program have been a bright spot, and I wanted to highlight these stories for you today. This spring, Gateways celebrated our 90th and 91st b’nei mitzvah — one bar mitzvah held completely virtually, and one bat mitzvah held in a synagogue with a small number of in-person attendees and the rest participating virtually. At each one, the parents shared with me their immense pride in their children’s accomplishments as well as their gratitude to Gateways — to the staff and teen volunteers in particular.

One parent shared of her son’s virtual bar mitzvah at Gateways, “It was an amazing experience….[his volunteers and teacher Rebecca Redner] had brought [him] to this point and he was so proud of himself and we were so proud of him. We appreciate everyone at Gateways, we know it takes a village and we are fortunate to be part of this one.”

The mother of the bat mitzvah student also wrote me to say, “This experience has been a lesson for all of us to keep raising the bar for her. And, after yesterday, she has a newfound confidence that she will have for the rest of her life.”

The priestly blessing many parents give their children on Friday evening begins,
“יְבָרֶכְךָ ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ” (y’varechecha Adonai v’yishmarecha) — translated as, “May God bless you and safeguard you.” One commentary on this verse explains that we should further understand this phrase to mean, “only God can guarantee that no one or nothing can tamper with the gifts He confers upon His loved ones.” These gifts are what make our children who they are, and when we bless each of our B’nei Mitzvah students, we are recognizing these gifts, creating a path of inclusion that will safeguard and uplift them.

Thank you to our parents, our educators, and to our students for continuing to share their remarkable milestones, and to our community for helping us “raise the bar” for our students, honoring their individual gifts by providing a path for belonging in Jewish life and learning.

Signature of Tamar Davis