Rabbi Mendel Duchman hosted the first Kol Yakov Yehuda Kid’s Bar Mitzvah on May 6th. The event was the culmination of his vibrant kid’s minyan that has been running for thirteen years. The Bar Mitzvah event was a black tie evening where 175 children walked the red carpet in their Shabbat clothes and enjoyed kiddie cocktail hour, magicians, hors d’oeuvres and more. Having raised funds on the crowd funding site, Go Fund Me, the entrance tickets were reduced to an affordable $13 per child.
Rabbi Duchman explained that he started the program because he thought his son was getting lost at shul. The first year was a success and so the program grew from there. This year, the Rabbi’s son is running the same program in South Africa where he is spending a year in study, now having reached the age of 21.
“We’ve raised the bar for youth programs!” Rabbi Duchman announced. “Schools and youth groups that are successful for today’s kids are having to think outside of the box to stay significant. Traditional ways are not relevant. Ordinary thinking is now creative thinking. The kids run this program and I just supervise and this keeps the activities pertinent. For instance, the Rabbi of the week is the boy with a birthday and he prepares a speech as well. We have another shul in Pico/Robertson who will be adopting our program and I’ve been contacted by East Coast synagogues too.”
The program is under the auspices of Congregation Levi Yizchok. Every Shabbat the children daven together and learn as a group and the comradery has broadened with annual shabbaton’s and other events. At the gatherings, the children are separated into boys and girls groups, older and younger groups, and this year also saw the launch of a gesher group for kids with special needs. The new division is proud to have 12 members!
Rabbi Duchman designed the Kol Yakov Yehuda program with prizes that the kids can win with Shabbat coins and then they make their claim online after Shabbat is out. There is also a Tuesday evening, “Laugh and Learn,” for girls in the community. The group has just been named, “Chaya’s Laugh and Learn,” in honor of Chaya Muska Spalter, who had been a member of the group until her untimely passing last month.