The Bar Mitzvah Wall in US Independence Park

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Love of Israel and the Jewish People passed on from generation to generation

Bar Mitzvah boy Ryan Benjamin Saywitz unveiled his name at the Bar Mitzvah Wall at the American Independence Park west of Jerusalem. In doing so, he commemorated Laszlo Abend, a Jewish boy from Austria who was murdered in the Holocaust, and never got to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

The excitement on the faces of the Saywitz family from California was obvious to all when they arrived at American Independence Park west of Jerusalem. After all, your child doesn’t celebrate his Bar Mitzvah every day, and doing so in Israel is extra special.

“We’ve already been planning this visit for a year, and I’m very happy for the privilege to be here,” said 13 year-old Ryan Benjamin Saywitz from Newport Beach. “This is my first visit to Israel, and it’s been a pleasant surprise for me,” the young boy added.

The family came for a two-week visit to Israel, during which they toured the entire county from the Golan in the north to Eilat in the south, including celebrating Ryan’s Bar mitzvah at an unforgettable ceremony at the Western Wall. “I feel as if bringing my family to Israel is the greatest accomplishment of my life,” said Michael Saywitz, as tears of emotion clouded his eyes.

Michael serves as the Chairman of the Board of JNF Palm Springs and Desert Region, but he came to Israel in a no less important role as Ryan’s grandfather. “I have visited Israel six times in the past, and each time I had a unique experience. Now I hope to transfer this deep connection to my grandson,” he said.

American Independence Park was established to mark the friendship between the people of Israel and the USA and also as an appreciation site for the friends and supporters of JNF USA. At the site, there are more than 5,000 plaques of appreciation for people, organizations and communities in the USA which support the implementation of many projects throughout Israel.

“As a representative of JNF USA, it is very impressive to see how much the organization has contributed to the country and made real changes in Israel,” Michael Saywitz said.

The renovation of the Donors Appreciation Center in the park was completed a few days before the visit, and the site looks new and inviting, with convenient walking trails, paths that are accessible for people with physical disabilities, and pleasant sitting corners. From all around there are views of the enchanting landscapes of the Judean hills and the forests that were planted by KKL-JNF over the years.

“Since my childhood, I always felt that Israel was a part of my life, and it’s important for me to transfer that love to my grandchildren,” said Judy Saywitz, Ryan’s grandmother.

The guests were greeted by KKL-JNF representative Avinoam Binder, who explained: “Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today than it did one hundred years ago. KKL-JNF has planted 240,000,000 trees throughout Israel.”

The bar-mitzvah boy himself had planted a tree earlier in the day, and Binder said to him: “Children and adults from throughout the world join us in planting, just as you have today. This is what makes it possible for us to make Israel greener.”

Michael Saywitz emphasized: “This is really the only way to get to know Israel and to be connected to it – to come here, see the land and plant a tree with your own hands.”

The Bar Mitzvah Wall at the American Independence Park was established with the aim of commemorating the memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust and were denied the privilege of celebrating their bar or bat mitzvahs. Next to the name of each American child is the name of a Jewish child who was murdered by the Nazis. Ryan unveiled the plaque with his name, and next to it was the name of Laszlo Abend, a Jewish boy from Austria. When they visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the family researched the past of this boy, who never got to celebrate his bar mitzvah during his short life, and whose name is now commemorated in Israel.

Barry Saywitz, Michael’s son and Ryan’s father, last visited Israel 35 years ago for his brother’s bar mitzvah. “Israel has really changed since then, not to mention that at the time I was a child and now I am a father,” he said and added: “It is very important for me that my son is celebrating his bar mitzvah in Israel, and I am certain that he will bring his children here in the future. This visit has been a very special experience for us all, and has connected the Jewish faith, Israel’s history, tourism, fun, and a lot of shared family experiences.”