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Mass Bar Mitzvah Held At Western Wall For Ethiopian Jews

Staff Writer,, April 5, 2005
A mass Bar Mitzvah ceremony was celebrated for 50 Ethiopian immigrants at the Western Wall in Jerusalem last month. The 50 new immigrants, ages 20 to 30, had never celebrated their Bar Mitzvahs - the ceremony marking a Jew's acceptance of responsibility for the observance of religious laws at the age of 13 (12, for girls). The immigrants are registered in a Jewish Agency program called Kedma, which prepares new immigrants for academic pursuits and to serve in the IDF.

During the nine-month program, which takes place at the Jewish Agency's absorption center in Hadera, the students study Hebrew, English and mathematics, together with Jewish studies and courses on Israeli culture and society. One of the key elements of the program is the process of conversion. Although Ethiopian Falash Mura are brought to Israel due to their Jewish roots, they must undergo a conversion process in order to rejoin the Jewish people according to Jewish Law. With the assistance of a resident rabbi, the olim [immigrants] study Judaism, and by the end of the Kedma program they are able to convert. The Bar Mitzvah service was arranged by the Jewish Agency's staff and the Rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall of the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem). The Jewish Federation of Jacksonville, Florida donated the 50 sets of tefillin for the service.

In other Aliyah news, among 80 new immigrants who immigrated to Israel last week from all over the globe was Nadim Mizrachi, who was injured in the massive terror attack on a synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey in 2003. In November of that year, two car bombs were detonated near two synagogues in Istanbul, killing 23 people, including six Jews, and wounding more than 300. Nadim, who volunteered to provide security services to the worshippers, was seriously wounded in the blast. He will spend his first months in Israel studying Hebrew at the Jewish Agency's Kalanit absorption center in Ashkelon.

Keywords: Israel, Ethiopians