D’var Shana – Thoughts About My Year in the Online Bar Mitzvah Program

Wolfe and Harper studied online with the Adventure Judaism distance learning program and then met Rabbi Jamie Korngold in Carmel by the Sea for their joint Beach B’nai Mitzvah. This is a speech Wolfe gave at his ceremony.

Alternative Beach B'nai Mitzvah
After studying online, students meet their rabbi on the beach for their dream B’nai Mitzvah.

Driving home from school on Tuesdays, we usually only had five minutes to spare until my FaceTime Hebrew class began with my  Adventure Judaism teacher Elaine. Running into the house, I yelled to my mom that I was hungry, while I ran to the bathroom for a last-minute pit stop while my mom signed into the video call. Running back down the hallway, sliding in my socks on the hardwood floors while still in my school uniform, I grabbed a pencil and made it into the office where my mom had the iPhone all setup, with a snack beside it. “Hello???” I heard Elaine saying, waiting for my face and voice to appear. And then we began…

My schedule was sometimes a crazy one, but I learned so much! In addition to celebrating Shabbat, doing Tikkun Olam, and studying Hebrew and Torah, we spent some of our lessons studying eight Jewish values. While I did my other lessons with Elaine alone, the value lessons were special because sister Harper and I did them together.

One of my favorite values we learned about was “Justice, Justice you must Pursue. This was the last value we learned about. When we first started talking about this Jewish Value, we talked about the wording of this value. Why does it say pursue, when it could say, you must do? We went through examples and conversations like If you just act, it might mean on the way to work you pick up the trash you see. But to pursue it, would mean you are going out of your way to find the trash.

At the end of the lesson, we concluded that a good definition for pursuing is “to go out of your way to do something.” I loved this value of pursuing justice. I think it was very engaging, and that is why I will continue to think about…. and practice…. this value far after my Bar Mitzvah today.

‘Pursuing’ isn’t the only word we talked more in-depth about during our values studying…

I used to think that Tzedakah just meant, “Giving to Charity.” I’ve had a Tzedakah box, which you put money in to give to Charity, almost my whole life. Elaine taught us, although Tzedakah usually is translated as “Charity,” Tzedakah’s literal meaning is “justice.” It’s not the act of I have so much and you don’t, so I’m going to give you some of what I have. Instead, it is I see an injustice and I must make it just. So, we concluded that Tzedakah could also be things like just making someone’s day with love, not money. This is what fascinated me about this value! With all this in mind, I feel that Tzedakah will also stick with me well past today!

No matter how crazy the schedule was, or how many seconds I had to make my pit stop, it all paid off, and I learned so much more than I expected to, that will stay with me forever. For now, when I see Hebrew out and about, at Temple or at the Jewish Community Center, I can now read what it says! Every second of studying and learning has brought me to this point, and I’m so grateful for that.

Beach Bar Mitzvah after online prep

To learn more about destination Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah and online learning options, click here.

photos by Sadie Korngold


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