B’nei Mitzvah School – Gomel, Belarus

Focusing on providing Jewish educational programming for children and youth in Gomel, the Kadima Religious Community for Progressive Judaism is implementing a Sunday school B’nei Mitzvah program that serves three cohorts based on age.

Children ages 10-12 in the B’nei Mitzvah program will meet for three hours weekly and will learn about Jewish history, tradition, the Jewish lifecycle and Jewish art. Hebrew will be incorporated into the classes, and the children will learn about and celebrate holidays together, as well as perform skits and concerts for their families and friends.

The second cohort focuses on children of B’nei Mitzvah age (13-14). They will meet every Sunday for five hours. In addition to participating in classes on religion and Jewish history, the youngsters will prepare for their B’nei Mitzvahs – including learning their Torah portions, studying Hebrew and preparing and delivering their speeches. The youth participating in this track also attend Kabbalat Shabbat services weekly with their peers. In the middle of the year, a Jewish naming ceremony is held. Children who do not already have Hebrew/ Jewish names are given one. At the end of the year, a communal Bar/ Bat Mitzvah ceremony and celebration is held for all the participating children.

The oldest children participating in the Sunday school programs are those ages 15-18. Their cohort focuses on the acquisition of leadership skills and a greater understanding of Jewish community, Jewish culture and Jewish law. Once a month, teens from the group lead a Kabbbalat Shabbat service for the community.

In addition to the weekly classes, the project conducts two annual three-day educational Shabbatonim. In addition to the weekly Sunday school participants, the Shabbatonim are also open to the youngsters’ families and educational staff from the project.

The Pincus Fund for Jewish Education is pleased to be able to provide support for youngsters in this small community. Given them the opportunity to learn about Jewish traditions is an important way to ensure a Jewish future in Gomel in the years to come.

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