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Bat Mitzvah Project: Growing in My Love for Israel and Helping Others

San Diego Jewish World

By Sarah Golembesky

October 19, 2021

Editor’s Note: Although just this last week reaching her bat mitzvah, Sarah Golembesky has become an important pro-Israel advocate through her participation in the StandWithUs organization, which advocates for Israel on North American college and high school campuses. Here is an excerpt from her bat mitzvah speech, delivered on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Ohr Shalom Synagogue.

SAN DIEGO — In my parashah [Lekh Lekha] Hashem promises to bless all those who bless Avram, meaning the Jewish people, and to curse all those who curse him. I think this is very important because this promise is a reminder to all Jews and the world of how important it is to support the land of Israel and the Jewish nation and what will happen to those who curse it. I want to be part of those who bless Israel.

It will be very important to me for my whole life that the parashah for my Bat Mitzvah, Lekh Lekha, is the parashah that connects the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

When I was younger, I didn’t really think that I would have a Bat Mitzvah. Most of the girls do not have one, but when I saw my sister Rachael become Bat Mitzvah and read from the Torah, I knew I wanted to also. It has been very special learning to chant Torah and I want to be able to read again in the future. Hopefully for the High Holy Days, on another Shabbat, and you are all invited for when I do it next year for the first anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah.

As I become Bat Mitzvah, it means that I am becoming more responsible – responsible for all sorts of things. I am now responsible for the mitzvot of the Torah. I am now responsible to keep studying Torah, just as I have studied my parashah. I am also responsible for lots of things in all aspects of my life. I am becoming more and more aware of my actions and how I am supposed to act as an adult, rather than like a little kid. More and more as I learn about the right way to behave, I need to act that way.

As my bat mitzvah project, I chose to help a Jewish educational organization, StandWithUs. StandWithUs is an organization that helps to educate people about Israel and is helping to fight antisemitism in our schools and universities.

I began this project with StandWithUs over two years ago and during this time I was fortunate enough to surround myself with some inspiring people who have a true love for Israel and the Jewish people.

One of the first activities that I did with StandWithUs was to serve as a table captain at the annual gala dinner. I worked very hard by contacting many of our friends and family asking them to join me at the event. Through this work, I was able to fill not one but two tables at the gala dinner. This allowed all of my guests to learn about the important work that StandWithUs does and gave them an opportunity to contribute to the organization.

During this time, I became the youngest member of the Herzel club by using my Bat Mitzvah Tzedaka fund which exposed me to many other people within the StandWithUs organization including the founder and CEO Roz Rothstein. I also got to know many other amazing people at many of the StandWithUs events who may have differing political viewpoints all have a strong support for Israel and fighting hate and antisemitism. Some of these people included TV and Radio personalities, local and national politicians and even a very famous Rock and Roll star!

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic hit while I was about halfway through my project so we had to get creative in how I would be able to continue to help and support StandWithUs as we were no longer able to do live events raising awareness.

One of the first things that I did during the lockdown was to sponsor a virtual challah bake to which I was able to invite many of my friends and family. Before the challah bake, I made and delivered more than 50 baskets with all of the ingredients needed to bake a challah along with reading material from StandWithUs to learn more about Israel.

A few months later the StandWithUs staff in the San Diego and Jerusalem offices helped me to sponsor a live virtual tour of Israel at sunrise. I once again invited many of my friends and family to the live tour in which we were able to see the Old City at sunrise. My friends and family who participated were able to see and hear the history of our homeland and how we fought the battles from ancient to recent times allowing Israel to become the modern state that it is today. We ended the tour virtually praying and singing at the Western Wall with my friends, classmates, and family from three different countries. We were all able to leave notes in the Western Wall through the tour guide who was there in Israel. It was a wonderful experience for so many to be able to get a taste of Israel as no one had been able to travel to Israel for more than six months at that time due to the COVID travel restrictions.

After seeing the dedication that my sister Rachel and I had for the StandWithUs organization they decided to open a special program specifically to allow others who are going through Bnai Mitzvah to more easily participate and help StandWithUs. The program that was enacted allows for kids to easily create their own web page and create their very own fundraising page to help the work that StandWithUs does around the globe. I was the very first Bat Mitzvah to use the newly created system and am proud to say that I met my goal before my very important day today with the help of many of my friends and family.

The experience that I had with StandWithUs helped allow me to grow in not only my love for Israel but also for helping others. StandWithUs helped me to educate myself and now others in my school and community about how important Israel is to the Jewish people and how we must stay vigilant in our fight to combat antisemitism, which unfortunately has been on the rise, not only around the country and world but also right here in our own community.

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