June 22, 2015
This past Shabbat, with the Bat Mitzvah of Addie Rosenthal, this year’s crop of Village Temple b’nei mitzvah students has completed the journey to the bimah. Nothing provides greater pleasure to our community than to see these young people make this commitment to their families and to their heritage. Week after week, we hear them apply their Torah portions to today’s world, finding ways to make these ancient stories relevant to their lives.
The effort this takes shouldn’t be underestimated. Each of these b’nei mitzvah students has to do something that would terrify many adults: stand up in front of a large group of people and present a series of complex prayers (in a foreign language); deliver a speech; and accept public proclamations about them from family and clergy. The preparation is long and often difficult, and competes with the demands of stressful school schedules. Meanwhile, all of this takes place during the psychologically fraught transition from childhood to adolescence.
The importance of this transmission of values has never seemed more important than this past week, when our nation once again experienced racial hatred expressed through murder. The 21-year-old killer, Dylann Storm Roof, was described by Charles Blow in The New York Times as “a millennial race terrorist.” The columnist asked, “Who radicalized Roof? Who passed along the poison?”
The only antidote to that poison is to strengthen a legacy of social action, of belief in true equality and justice. Throughout the year we’ve listened to young people affirm these values. Our hope lies in them.