A message from Yad Vashem

Celebration through Commemoration

Yad Vashem Special Twinning Project for Bar and Bat Mitzvah Youth

Forging a Connection to Jewish History

A Bar or Bat Mitzvah signifies the moment a child accepts his or her place as a Jewish individual and takes part in the fabric of the Jewish people. This landmark occasion is an opportunity for families to come together, celebrate and embrace their Jewish heritage.

David Bergman was a regular 13-year-old boy, eagerly anticipating his Bar Mitzvah.

“I was so much looking forward to this day of Bar Mitzvah. I had several years of preparation for this event. My parents even had all the gifts set aside. Indeed that day I became a man heading for an unknown destination… The day was spent in a cattle train. My father had a bottle of wine that he had secretly taken aboard, risking his life to do so. But this event meant so much to him – he felt it was worth the sacrifice. He passed the bottle of wine around and everyone made a toast to me, and that is how I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah.” David himself related this story in the personal testimony he gave to Yad Vashem years later.

Bar Mitzvah twinning at Yad Vashem

David was deported to Auschwitz, and then transferred to the Dachau and Gross-Rosen camps. Miraculously, he survived the Holocaust.

However, David’s story is unusual. Nearly 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered during the Holocaust – many never having the opportunity to reach the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Yad Vashem’s Twinning Program is a unique way to mark this rite of passage. The program connects boys or girls marking their Bar or Bat Mitzvah to their past by bonding them with the memory of an individual child who was murdered during the Holocaust.

Families who have participated in the program describe it as a meaningful experience that deeply connects them to the Jewish people. Hallie Kopel, a Bat Mitzvah girl who twinned with a Shoah victim, said, “It is important to know where you’re from, so that you know where you are going.”

Aron Wells marking his Bar-Mitzvah by studying the Yad Vashem Twinning guide

Reflecting on the twinning ceremony of her son at Yad Vashem, Debra Rinn said: “It was very special for us to have the opportunity to share our son’s Bar Mitzvah with the memory of a boy who was murdered in the Holocaust.”

A Meaningful Experience from Anywhere in the World

Yad Vashem has now made it possible to bring this meaningful remembrance experience directly to you anywhere in the world. The online option of this unique project is being offered as the world grapples with COVID-19. The pandemic has altogether changed the way people are gathering to mark important events and occasions, and families have reached out seeking alternative ways of participating in this special project.

A Bat Mitzvah project poster that Zara Donoff created in memory of her twin Sara Feldman

Aron Wells chose to participate in the online Twinning Program. Aron’s father, Adam, tweeted: “My son, Aron, was paired with Aron Gotlib from Poland who was born in 1933. Aron was murdered, along with his mother Fela, when he was only 9 years old.

“I don’t want Aron Gotlib’s name and beautiful face to just be consigned to history. He deserved to have his Bar Mitzvah and celebrate with his family, like millions of others. On ‘my’ Aron’s Bar Mitzvah we will celebrate on his behalf too.”

Marking her Bat Mitzvah, Avital Chuhareva holds a picture of her twin Frida Najman

As the events of the Holocaust recede in time, engaging young people in carrying the memory of the Shoah forward is vital. The Yad Vashem Twinning Program offers an opportunity to honor those murdered during the Holocaust, and helps to ensure that the youth of today remain connected to their Jewish heritage.

For additional information visit Yad Vashem’s website >

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