Palestinian peace activist Ali Abu Awwad meets with some of the guests in the writer’s sukkah, from left, Margaret Wool, Barbara Holtzman, Judy Kaye, Susan Sklar  and Gerry Tyler. /Judy KayePalestinian peace activist Ali Abu Awwad meets with some of the guests in the writer’s sukkah, from left, Margaret Wool, Barbara Holtzman, Judy Kaye, Susan Sklar and Gerry Tyler. /Judy KayePalestinian peace activist, Ali Abu Awwad, met with 20 people over lunch in an East Side sukkah on Oct. 12, under a perfect autumn sky.  The predominantly Jewish gathering, which included people from across the political spectrum, heard Awwad tell his personal story of transformation from teen combatant to nonviolent peace activist.

Born on the West Bank in 1972 and raised in a politically active refugee family, Awwad took part in the first intifada and was sentenced to 10 years in an Israeli prison. There he engaged with educated Palestinians and was exposed to the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Along with his mother and 5,000 other prisoners, Awwad participated in a 17-day hunger strike in 1993 and was released after the Oslo Accords. This experience had a powerful impact on him, he said. “I learned that non-violence is much more difficult than violence, and is more effective at changing hearts. To take strong action that doesn’t harm, kill or threaten anyone, you have to believe in yourself and be proud of who you are.”

Paula BodoPaula BodoPaula Bodo, a bar and bat mitzvah tutor, estimates that she’s helped roughly 200 children get ready for the big day. Twelve years ago, she decided to work not only with synagogue members, but also with families that didn’t belong to a congregation, such as those in The Friday School. Bodo jokingly calls her services “bar and bat mitzvah out of the box,” meaning that her process is atypical. She explains that her ability to be extremely patient is a draw since many kids have learning difficulties. Bodo says that perfecting the chant is the easy part. What’s more challenging for students is the spiritual part – connecting to the reading.


The skywalk through the Costa Rican rainforest. The skywalk through the Costa Rican rainforest. JNS.ORG – Today, with families more spread out than they used to be, the idea of a destination function is more appealing than ever. Having guests travel to one location can be efficient, fun and serve as a vacation at the same.

There can also be cost savings with a destination bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. It can cost less to go away for a week than to pay for one large three-hour event. All sorts of options are available. Among popular destinations for bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are the historic synagogues with sand floors (used to muffle sounds when prayers were held secretly) in St. Thomas and Curacao, the Costa Rican rain forest, and the centuries-old synagogue in Barbados.

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Women of the Wall launched an ad campaign on public buses in Jerusalem to promote bat mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall.

Unveiled on Oct. 12, the ads feature Israeli girls ages 11 to 14 wearing a prayer shawl and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. The ad reads in Hebrew: “Mom, I too want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.”

The girls featured in the ads – including Ashira Abramowitz-Silverman, the daughter of Yosef Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman, and niece of comic Sarah Silverman – have either had a bat mitzvah with Women of the Wall or are planning one.

A bar or bat mitzvah is a day filled with anticipation and one to be treasured. You will certainly want to protect these precious memories so they may be passed from generation to generation as a family heirloom.

Still photography plays an important role in capturing any celebration, but many of us may not realize that a professional videographer is often able to capture so much more than still pictures can.

Imagine if our parents had the technology 40 or 50 years ago to create a beautiful film of their special day, allowing you to relive all those special moments, hear their words as they read aloud from the Torah, witness their candlelighting ceremony, hear the toasts, see all the guests, and join the entire family as they danced the Hora. A professional video can capture the emotions, the joy and the excitement of the day like nothing else.