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Op-eds

The makings of a meaningful simcha...

  • BenitaLevin
A few months before we made aliya, I received a phone call from one of the fabulous organisers at our school in Johannesburg. Effervescent and full of joy as always, Cheryl’s smiley voice rang through the receiver: “Benita-la, I just want to confirm the date for Lirani’s barmitzvah.”
by BENITA LEVIN | Nov 23, 2017

I started to laugh - not because of the affectionate way Cheryl always changed every person’s name into something diminutive and cute - but because our son was only 10 years old at the time!

Before I could articulate the fact that I hadn’t quite got down to dates, venues and seating arrangements yet, Cheryl continued in her inimitable maternal way: “And I know you’re making aliya, my love, but trust me, it’s better to have a date booked in South Africa anyway. You simply never know what can happen in three years, it might be difficult for older relatives to travel… you might want to all be together in South Africa, you just never know, Benit-sie”.

Fast forward to this week in Israel, 10 months into our aliya, and Cheryl’s words are resonating through my mind. Where do new olim have their simchas? The options are many:

  • The shul your family has been going to for the last 10 months, since you made aliya, with an active, warm community, filled with friends who have welcomed you into their homes like family?
  • The Kotel in Jerusalem? No explanations needed.
  • Masada - including a breath-taking sunrise or sunset.
  • Near the beach in Tel Aviv or Herzliya.
  • In Durban, where all grandparents still live, and the childhood home city to the barmitzvah boy’s parents?
  • Or Johannesburg, the same shul where the barmitzvah boy had his bris and where he often sang from the bimah - and sometime with the choir - since he was a pint-sized eight-year old?

So, an exciting range of meaningful choices lie ahead. Northern or southern hemisphere? When our family and close friends are spread out across the globe, where do we choose to celebrate?

The decision has been made that much easier, by our son’s wish that he could mark this momentous milestone in his life with as many relatives as possible. He feels that as his grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, many cousins and close friends are around, he is ready to celebrate this special simcha, anywhere in the world.

Then there's the chesed programme, in which many barmitzvah boys and batmitzvah girls around the globe choose a charity or campaign to help, in conjunction with their simchas. Our son's fascination with the Hatzalah United medical rescue organisation, will definitely see part of his celebrations being marked at their headquarters in Jerusalem.

For his younger sister and her pending batmitzvah, it is slightly different. She wants her family and her closest friends from South Africa at her big day. With just a 16-month age difference between the two children, it would make perfect sense to celebrate the two simchas over the same period. Or is that just the thinking of a practical parent?

At this stage, the double celebration is not an enticing option for either our future barmitzvah boy or batmitzvah girl. Maybe we have enough time to change their minds?

Most important word for the next month:

Donuts - Sovganiyot. You need to know the word, with a few weeks to go until the festival of Chanukah. You need to leave the diet at home.

Smile of the week:

Our mensch of a teenage neighbour found a wallet near a pavement in Ra’anana. He didn’t recognise the name on the personal cards inside. But his mother tracked down a “mutual Facebook friend” of the owner. She was given a phone number… in South Africa! Several calls later, the owner and wallet have now been reunited. It’s a small, honest world.

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