St. Louis Family Remembers Lost Children of the Holocaust
Jumpstarts Bar/Bat Mitzvah Project for Jewish National Fund
Contact: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 • firstname.lastname@example.org
March 7, 2006 New York, NY -- To create a permanent memorial for the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust, the Levin family of St. Louis, MO. -- in particular, Max, who is about to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah -- is funding the creation of a “Wall of Honor” in Jerusalem’s American Independence Park in conjunction with Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael.
Though erected in honor of Max’s Bar Mitzvah, the wall will allow other Bar and Bat Mitzvah age children to link their names to a child who perished in the Holocaust and continue the circle of life. The stone wall will have ceramic tiles embedded in it, each available for an $1800 donation, and will bear the name of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child, his/her hometown and date of Bar/Bat Mitzvah and the name of a child who perished at the hand of the Nazis. Proceeds will go towards developing, maintaining and advancing JNF-KKL’s five Israel campsites, to be used by children for camping experiences.
The idea was hatched this past summer when Max and his parents, Bud and Judy, perused the Honor Books housed in JNF-KKL’s offices in Jerusalem. The Children’s Book lists nearly 100,000 children, born in pre-war Europe, for whom trees were planted in honor of a milestone in their lives. Max realized that for most of them, the only evidence of their lives was in those books.
“I was looking for a project to dedicate for my Bar Mitzvah,” said Max, “and there they were. Thousands upon thousands of names. Out of the six million Jews who were murdered, 1.5 million of them were children. That means that at least 150,000 of them were at the Bar Mitzvah age. There are very few records and very few stories left about these children. Almost all of their families had been killed and almost no trace of them has ever been found. When I saw those Books of Honor I knew at that very moment that I wanted to dedicate my Bar Mitzvah to the lost children of the Holocaust. I am not accepting any personal gifts for my Bar Mitzvah. Instead, I want everything to go to this project."
JNF-KKL is working with Yad Vashem to ensure these records are preserved and that these souls are not forgotten.
Information about hundreds of thousands of Jewish National Fund donors has been preserved in seven Honor Books dating back to 1901, when Jewish National Fund was created in Basel, Switzerland. These books -- the Golden Book, the Children’s Book, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Book, the Marriage Book, the Book of Plantings, the Book of Special Gifts and the Aliyah Book together constitute an expression of the tie between the Jewish Diaspora and the land of Israel. These volumes reinforce the bond of the Jewish people with the country and make the donors into partners in the work of JNF.
Over the years, the pages of the Golden Books have filled with thousands of names. Kings, presidents, and statesmen from many nations including Lord Balfour, Sir Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Zvi Schapira, David Wolfsohn, and Moses Montifiore. as well as Jewish people around the world who represent all economic levels. The Golden Books have become a kind of “medal of honor” awarded to all who have been recognized by the Jewish people for their contribution to Zionist work.
In ancient Israel, it was customary to plant a cedar tree when a boy was born and a pine when a girl was born. When the child married, the tree was cut down and the boughs used to construct the wedding canopy. When Jews were exiled to the Diaspora, the tradition fell by the wayside, but was reborn when JNF began planting trees in Israel. The Children’s Book commemorates those tree plantings which record births, birthdays, graduations and accomplishments, as well as a photo of the child. Eighty percent of the 91,000 names inscribed in the Children’s Book by 1933 perished in the Holocaust.
The Bar Mitzvah Books were initiated in 1936 and hold more than 100,000 names and photos commemorating their bar/bat mitzvahs. In the Children’s Book and the Bar/Bat Mitvah Books there is also a place for a photo. For pre-Holocaust bar/bat mitvahs, these may be the only surviving photos available of the individual who perished in the Holocaust.
“We wanted to create a way to memorialize those children who never had anyone say Kaddish for them,” said Bud. “This wall will honor the past and look ahead to the future. It will continue the circle of life.”
JNF also offers Bar and Bat Mitzvah Family Missions to Israel through JNF Travel and Tours, an unforgettable way to mark this milestone. JNF's Simcha program offers tree certificates as invitations, thank you notes, favors and table signs to enhance your simcha and connect your child and guests to their homeland. Go to http://support.jnf.org/ for more information on these programs.
Caption: An artist's rendition of the Wall of Honor. Each plaque will bear the name and hometown of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the date of their milestone and the name of a child who perished in the Holocaust.
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
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For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.