A Palm Beach teen has raised $25,000 to cover the cost of bar mitzvahs for 13 underprivileged boys in Israel at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Mendel Scheiner, 13, raised the money from family, friends and fellow synagogue members in honor of his own bar mitzvah last winter in Palm Beach. The Israel part of his bar mitzvah will take place July 6, along with the other boys.
His mitzvah project is in partnership with Afikim, a family enrichment association that provides programs for struggling families, many of them immigrants to Israel, to break the cycle of poverty.
“Mendel felt he wanted to do a mitzvah for boys from underprivileged homes,” said Dinie Scheiner, Mendel’s mother.
Mendel’s family, including his five siblings, will celebrate the bar mitzvahs with 35 to 40 people from the Palm Beaches, plus others in Israel, including the families of the 13 boys being bar mitzvahed.
“My brothers and sisters are excited to go to Israel and the Western Wall,” Mendel said. “And they are happy for me, and they are happy for the other boys.”
Mendel’s father, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of Palm Beach Synagogue, will lead the service and Mendel will read part of the week’s Torah.
The event will begin with a musical procession outside the walls of the Old City, into the plaza and then to the wall. Jewish music from drums, clarinets and flutes will accompany the procession.
Each boy receives a pair of Tefillin (black leather boxes containing hand-written Hebrew parchment scrolls, one for the head and one for the arm, connecting mind and heart), a prayer shawl, personalized leather prayer book and a kippah (headcovering) with a Tefillin bag.
“It can get expensive for families that can’t afford it,” said Dinie Scheiner. “Because of that, Mendel decided to raise money to be able to give these boys everything they need for a bar mitzvah, plus a party for them” and their families.
After the bar mitzvah, the Palm Beach group will have a private meeting with President of Israel Reuven Rivlin at Bait Hanasi, the president’s private residence.
Mendel, a seventh-grader at Torah Academy in Boca Raton, has been preparing about an hour each night.