Saturday, February 29, 2020

For the second year in a row, Ma’ayanot students, led by student leaders on the school’s Holiday Enhancement Committee, threw a bat mitzvah party for a local girl who would not otherwise have enjoyed a traditional bat mitzvah celebration. But this was no ordinary party; in the words of the bat mitzvah girl’s mother, “This was the best bat mitzvah ever. Not only was everything done to perfection, the outpouring of Ma’ayanot love and ruach penetrated our souls and will stay with us forever.”

While many students were involved in executing the plan, four students, seniors Tamar Mendelson and Rosie Polonetsky and juniors Hannah Siegel and Avigayil
Shapiro, were primarily responsible for planning the celebration.

The first issue tackled by the students was to find sponsors willing to donate goods and services for the event. In undertaking this endeavor, they very quickly understood that the community was going to rally around their efforts to make this a celebration to remember: Jeff Neckonoff of Azamra DJ (www.azamradj.com) donated his time and talent to infuse the celebration with music, passion and excitement; Kenny Yager of Five Star Caters (www.fivestarcaterers.com) provided party nosh sufficient to feed the entire Ma’ayanot student body as well as the bat mitzvah girl’s friends and family; Leora Engle (a Ma’ayanot alumna) and Nina Klapper volunteered to lead dancing and games; Yuval Graneviz of Action Studios Photography (www.actionstudiosonline.com) came early and left late to ensure that the celebration was captured in its entirety; Yuval Graneviz of Avenue Event Space (www.avenueeventspace.com) added to the ambiance by providing special lighting; and Chopstix of Teaneck (kjrtechgroup.wix.com/chopstixusa) provided food for the family-only after-party at a significant discount.

In addition to business sponsors, Ma’ayanot secured a number of individual sponsors. Dr. Amit and Mrs. Ellie Schwartz sponsored (for an aliyat neshamah for Ilana Michal Schwartz, z”l) the enhancements that made the celebration feel festive and special—including party favors, fancy paper goods and tons of decorations that literally transformed Ma’ayanot’s lunchroom into an elegant event space. An anonymous sponsor donated a balloon arch and an enormous sheet cake. Finally, Ma’ayanot parents Jonathan and Leah Adler sponsored the after-party for the bat mitzvah’s guests.

Ma’ayanot students worked on Torah learning projects with both the bat mitzvah girl and her mother, created a sign-in board and a video montage out of pictures provided by the family and prepared a chessed project for the bat mitzvah’s friends. In seeing the extent to which the Ma’ayanot students attended to every detail with love and excitement, a close family friend of the bat mitzvah girl commented “Anyone who ever wanted to know that mitzvot make you feel good, this would be the perfect example.”

While the Ma’ayanot students focused on the bat mitzvah girl and her family, Ma’ayanot faculty couldn’t help but focus upon what their students accomplished. “We are incredibly proud of all the students that worked so tirelessly on this event and put together a dream bat mitzvah,” noted Rabbi Zev Prince, the faculty member who supervised production of the bat mitzvah celebration.” “They did it with kavod and sensitivity for our bat mitzvah girl and her family. I really believe that they asked themselves, ‘What did I have at my bat mitzvah that made it so special and how can I make sure that this young girl has the same?’ It was important to them that she had nothing less than what they themselves had. Our student volunteers quite literally did not leave a thing out.” Ms. Elana Flaumenhaft concurred, noting “Our students are always looking for opportunities to enhance the lives of others, and I think that working on the bat mitzvah reminded and inspired them to appreciate their Judaism. We are really proud of what they’ve done for this bat mitzvah girl.”

Appreciation is often a two-way street, and, in reflecting on the experience of organizing the bat mitzvah, Tamar Mendelson noted “The school stood behind us every step of the way. They let us plan on our own, but we knew they are like our parents, that they were watching over what we were doing, and when we needed, we could turn to them. But it was great to see what we could accomplish on our own.” Avigayil Shapiro was equally proud of what she and her fellow students accomplished: “After all the planning and preparation, it was amazing to see the excitement on the bat mitzvah girl’s face and the ruach in the room. I am so honored that I had the opportunity to participate in such a beautiful event. It was a rewarding experience for the entire Ma’ayanot community.”

In her remarks at the celebration, the bat mitzvah girl’s mother observed, “The ruach and simcha, spirit and joy, created by this party is a true example of what Ma’ayanot stands for.”