Bnai mitzvah tzedakah: Twin with disabled Israelis

Participants will receive a Teen-To-Teen Twinning Kit, complete with a profile and photo of their twin and a number of suggestions for the ceremony. The Teen-To-Teen Twinning Kit has been formulated with input from rabbis from the major branches of Judaism and is available with specific lessons for children from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist congregations.

"The joy of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is universal. As I watched my own children and those of others in our congregation prepare for this rite of passage, I thought about the children in our other family at Keren-Or," said Dr. Edward L. Steinberg, Keren-Or's board chairman. "Teen-To-Teen is the natural outgrowth of our desire to share the joy of Keren-Or bar and bat mitzvahs with other families."

Most of Keren-Or's children have been born blind and have multiple disabilities. Some have been born with degenerative illnesses that led to blindness or low-vision early in life. Learning the daily living skills that others take for granted — from sitting independently to feeding oneself to walking unaided — are often tremendous challenges that can take years to master. Each year several Keren-Or children reach the age of bar and bat mitzvah and take the important step of formally declaring their membership in the adult Jewish community.

"The goal of Teen-To-Teen is to help young people gain a better understanding of the world of the disabled by sharing the preparation for their bar or bat mitzvah with a blind, multi-handicapped Israeli youngster at Keren-Or," said Steinberg.

Teen-To-Teen is a flexible program that includes a d'var Torah (rabbinic lesson) intended to stimulate further study and information about Keren-Or (including a video presentation). Youngsters who join the twinning program will receive a certificate from Keren-Or and an invitation to visit their twin during their next trip to Israel.

"A bar or bat mitzvah process at Keren-Or is more than a wonderful event — it is something close to a modern miracle to see children with severe disabilities recite the blessing that thanks God for allowing them to reach this day," Steinberg said. "We hope many Americans will choose to stand united with their peers at Keren-Or."

For more information about Teen-To-Teen and a sample Twinning Kit, contact Keren-Or at Suite 200, 350 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10001, or call (212) 279-4070. Please indicate whether you want an Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist kit. Congregation rabbis, educators and principals are invited to request multiple copies of the Teen-To-Teen Twinning Kit for their congregations or schools.