As part of our support to Twinning with Polotsk in Belarus we encourage our B'nei Mitzvot to twin with children in Belarus so that they too can have B'nei Mitzvah and to build on the relationshop between our communities.
In May 2012, we twinned two girls having bat mitzahs in Polotsk, Lena and Katya, with Dawn who lives here in London.
This is a letter prepared by Dawn's twin in Belarus, Lena. This letter explains Jewish identity; why she wants to be Jewish in Belarus and not move to Israel and what being Jewish and becoming bat Mitzvah means to her.
Dear, my bat Mitzvah twin Dawn
For me to become bat Mitzvah and live as a Jewish woman in Polotsk is what the ultimate aim of my Jewish life is to do. We still are not 'free' but time has allowed Judaism and religious practice to be developed and as country Belarus has slightly shifted in a way we would like to live as people. It is known that before the end of the last century no religious enterprise was allowed meaning my mother and father were denied of the opportunity to become bar/bat Mitzvah. I want to have a bat Mitzvah; it gives me great responsibility that makes me feel honored as it makes me even closer to my nation and to a Jewish life. By learning for my bat-Mitzvah I have been given a huge opportunity to enrich my Judaic knowledge about the people, traditions and culture of Judaism. It's a great experience for me and the fact I can have my bat Mitzvah in Polotsk has very special meaning to my family and I. If religious practice rules wouldn't have been eased, I wouldn't of been able to have a bat-Mitzvah and become a Jewish woman as there would be no-where to have the bat-Mitzvah; Israel and America are not options as the cost is to dear and if I did go somewhere I wouldn’t be with my family and friends as they wouldn't be able to come with me. Even though lots of religious challenges are put in my homeland, I would never consider emigrating elsewhere. I would loose my friends, identity and character and I wouldn't move from Belarus for anything. Although I feel the sadness whilst saying that we just have progressive Judaism being developed, I feel we all try to do our best to come to the next development level including myself.
In my opinion age is irrelevant it's better to have something late, then never. So, of course I'm 15 already but I still want to be bat Mitzvah as it's the ceremony of becoming a full age, it's when a girl turns to a young lady, growing not jut physically but spiritually, and it's when she turns to be full member of society with all the rights and responsibility. I hope that everyone who hears my story remembers me when winning those challenges and has good luck in all they do.
Enjoy your bat Mitzvah and the celebrations of becoming a Jewish adult
With love as always,
This is Katya's letter about Jewish life. She has a very closed approach when talking about her religion even to Dawn; this is probably because of the way she was and is being brought up. If you don't say, you won't get caught. If you remember it's her parents who have the amazing story. Just imagine again going to your mum, saying you want to learn Yiddish waiting over 20years for the Soviet Union to break up and then being told by your Mum "you want to learn Yiddish because you are Jewish".
Dear my friend Dawn,
Being Jewish has a very special meaning to me all my family. On my maternal side all my ancestors are Jewish and all have Jewish backgrounds however none of them have had bat mitzvahs and that means I am making family history showing progression into the future religious wise. On the paternal side my father and grandfather and great-grandfather were Jewish and we cannot trace back our religious history any further. So, to have bat Mitzvah and be a semi-practicing Jewish lady is a tribute to the memory and respect of all my ancestors. Also for Jews, to have a bat-Mitzvah is a way of having a better communication with G-d meaning you can pray with him more and that consequently G-d can help you more. I do not understand why life in Belarus has so many religious obstacles but I like that obstacle course- it gives me something to aim for. I go further and further along that course until eventually and it will happen, we will have and be part of an Orthodox fully practicing community with lots of shuls and Judaica in the home. I don't ever want to go and live in Israel as I want to see the Jewish culture of Belarus develop and as my Judaic knowledge is minimal, I want our freedom as Jews to develop steadily so I can learn more and more about the next thing we are allowed to do.
To become bat Mitzvah and have a ceremony in Polotsk means the world to me, it means I have responsibility, a rite in life to protest and make my own decisions and it means that we are making as a country positive progress by allowing bat Mitzvah. I know this is progress as my parents weren't allowed to become bar/bat Mitzvah. I hope that you feel the same way and that you have learnt as much as I have coming up to becoming bat Mitzvah,