My sister Zohar and I recently celebrated our B’nai Mitzvah three months apart — my sister turned 12 in September and I turned 13 in December. Some people might find it unusual that we are only nine months apart in age — we were adopted.
My parents and older brother Amir brought both of us from Novosibirsk, Russia, in the winter of 2001, around the time of Hanukkah. My sister’s name, Zohar, signifies brilliance; and my name, Lior, means “light to me.” We were both very young and didn’t understand any English. Fortunately, our new family brought us into a warm community in Seattle. We also had the opportunity to meet our new grandparents on Mercer Island and in a small moshav called Beit Shikma in Hof Ashkelon, Israel. During 2009-10, my sister and I lived and studied in Jerusalem, where our older brother studied at a yeshiva outside of the city.
As I was writing my Bar Mitzvah speech, my mother and I looked to see if I could make a donation from the gifts I received to a worthy project. As a Bar Mitzvah, it is now my turn to bring light unto others. My mother’s moshav is less than 10 kilometers from the border with Gaza. For the past several years, thousands of rockets have rained on southern Israel — including the Hof Ashkelon region, the Seattle Jewish community’s sister area. Thousands of children and adults have been traumatized by these unprovoked attacks.
I decided to make a donation to the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center, a 21,000-square-foot secure indoor playground and community center built by the Jewish National Fund. I only discovered later that the CEO of the Jewish National Fund, Russell Robinson, would be visiting Seattle two days before my Bar Mitzvah! I had the honor to meet Mr. Robinson and personally give him a check. He spoke to a group of people about all of the wonderful projects the JNF is doing in Israel to create new technology, help the environment, and to make Israel stronger. I was very proud to have chosen such an organization to give to.