With the aim of reconnecting teenage boys with the Jewish education of their youth, Moscow’s Bar Mitzvah project has already prepared 50 young men for their Bar Mitzvah over the past two years.
Rabbi Aba Abdo works with the boys every Monday and Thursday for 6 months to prepare them for their bar mitzvah service, consisting of leading the prayers, reading the weekly Torah portion out loud in the synagogue, putting on tefillin and reciting a speech.
All of the boys come from non-affiliated families and usually attended some kind of Jewish education when they were younger. The boys receive these lessons in a non-structured setting. Rabbi Aba Abdo uses the boys’ personal interests, such as art or music, to connect them to Jewish heritage.
Initiated by Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, the program takes place in the famous “Marina Rochetza’ Jewish Community Center of Moscow. The youth can perform their Bar Mitzvah service as a group or individually. “Often the boys don’t see how much they have been affected by the preparations and service themselves. Recently we had a program alumni surprise himself by being able to read his bar mitzvah Torah portion a whole year later. The effects stay with them for years and that connection is what we strive for,” said Rabbi Aba Abdo.