Batmitzvah ‘girls’ share stories with JFS students


Three women who attend Jewish Care’s Brenner Community Centre in Stamford Hill celebrated belated batmitzvahs this week in the company of 26 JFS year-seven pupils who have participated in a joint bnei mitzvah programme.

As well as marking the rite of passage, the programme was designed to inspire pupils to consider their responsibility to the wider community through activities such as volunteering.

On visits to the Brenner, students heard stories about the lives of members, looked at old photos and discussed the differences between being a 13-year-old then and now. Pupils also helped members create a collage of their life.

At the closing ceremony at the school’s Wohl synagogue, which was attended by families of the celebrants, Sadie Levy, 84, Celia Kosminsky, 93, and Jean Islin, 86, were presented with certificates by Lord Levy, president of both Jewish Care and JFS..

“It was very emotional,” said Mrs Islin, surrounded by generations of her family. “I didn’t expect it. We loved the children. They worked so hard with us making us collages and poems. We learned from them and them from us. It was truly a tremendous day.” Mrs Kosminsky, whose great-nephew and great-niece attended, reflected: “I was one of 11 children. I sincerely wished my mum and dad could have been here today. The girls from this school have been fabulous to me. They have taught me what I’d have liked to have been taught at that age. But Mum had a lot to do and I helped her a lot as she was ill. Today has been wonderful.”

Mrs Levy had been nervous “but it was all marvellous. The children who came to see us were fantastic and we really got to know each other. This is an honour.”

Among students who addressed the ceremony was Tamar Silas, who said Mrs Kosminsky, in particular, had inspired her “with fascinating stories about her life when she was my age. I loved hearing her tell us all about her siblings and her Friday-night dinners.

“We made a collage together about how life has changed over time and how different it was to be Jewish in those days.

“It made me realise how lucky I am that I have the opportunity to go to Jewish schools and I have grown up somewhere where I can be Jewish. I will remember this for the rest of my life.”

Welcoming guests, JFS informal Jewish educator Aaron Wunsh recalled: “I had my own barmitzvah at this school. As we prepare for Pesach to read the Haggadah and pass on the story of the Exodus to our children, we learn that continuity is so important to the Jewish people to keep this connection moving from generation to generation. This is what we are seeing here today.”

Lord Levy told celebrants they were “fantastic role models. You’ve given us something we’ll never forget.”

As part of the programme, students also had the opportunity to quiz Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris and trustee and vice-chair Debbie Fox about the charity’s work and heard an inspirational talk from Simon Davies on living with disability.

A number of the participants will be signing up for Jewish Care’s 10k bnei mitzvah walk in May. The route starts and finishes at Jewish Care facilities with a stop on the way for tea with residents at the Clore Manor home in Hendon. The walk is open to year seven and eight pupils from any school.

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