Bnei Mitzvah Archive

April 2019

Rebekah Bartkowski

Parashat Tazria
Saturday, April 6

My favorite thing about being Jewish is being unique and different from others. The majority of people in Charlotte (and the world) are not Jewish. As Jews, we have different holidays, foods, rituals, and customs. I always look forward to celebrating holidays with family and friends. Our traditions bring us together.

In Jewish tradition, a Bat Mitzvah means gaining responsibility and becoming an adult. Well….I’m only 13. So, I’m not really an “adult.” The process of becoming a Bat Mitzvah has encouraged me to notice things around me that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, during services I notice the families who stand up to honor the memories of their loved ones. During my Mitzvah Project, I realized that there are many working parents who need help watching their children and many children who need the support of community.

I have been volunteering with kids at an after-school program at a local school. Working with kids is one of my favorite things to do. I read to the children, help them to color and draw, and complete their homework. Our city has kids who need extra attention and support. I’m going to continue to volunteer and I encourage others to help out, too.

I look forward to celebrating as a Jewish adult, continuing with youth groups and BBYO, and Hebrew High. I also look forward to teaching people about Judaism.

Rebekah is the daughter of Lori and Tim Bartkowski and the younger sister of Rachael and Leah. Send notes of congratulations.

March 2019

Alexa Kirschner

Parashat Tzav
Saturday, March 23

My favorite part about being Jewish is the people/the community. People at Temple Beth El are very kind and generous. They will drop everything to help you if you need something, so don’t hesitate to ask! Becoming a bat mitzvah is very important – to me it is a big milestone in life because honestly, it takes a lot of work to become one. I worked for a long time to get here, and then you get to the day and then it’s over! But it is a very big part of life that I will remember forever.

During Sheva and in preparation for this moment, I learned just how much work it takes to become a bat mitzvah, and also that I am capable of doing that work. It took a lot of perseverance and persistence, and I learned that I am capable of both.

For my mitzvah project I worked with an organization called Hands On Charlotte. At first, I honestly didn’t know what to do for my mitzvah project, and then I found on Hands On Charlotte, which had a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. My favorite experience was going to White Oak Center, a senior home, and bringing my dog Cooper to let the seniors pet him. This experience taught me that when someone is having a bad day – or even a good one – you can always help them in some kind of way; it will make their day, even if it is a small gesture. Now that I am a bat mitzvah, I will continue to do community service and stay connected to the Jewish community by going to Sheva and coming to services.

Alexa Kirschner is the daughter of Steve Kirschner and Heidi Kirschner and the stepdaughter of Lisa Vogel. She is the sister of Marcus Kirscher, Ryan Vogel, Shayna Vogel, and Kyle Vogel. She is the granddaughter of Joan Kirschner of Charlotte, North Carolina, Jim Adelman of Palm Beach Gardens Florida, and Gunnel and Richard Greenhagen. Send notes of mazel tov. 

Reece Newman

Parashat Vayikra
Saturday, March 16

My favorite thing about being Jewish is standing out – it makes me feel unique. Plus, when you say “I’m Jewish,” people are really interested, and say  “Tell me more,” so it’s also a conversation starter.

Becoming a bar mitzvah means I’m becoming more of an adult in the Jewish community – it doesn’t mean I all of a sudden make all of my decisions, but it does mean I get to think more about what it means to become my own person with my own choices on how to be a part of the Jewish community. In preparing for my bar mitzvah, one thing I learned about myself is that I like going to Shabbat services! The music is peaceful, and it’s nice to sit and relax for a few minutes. It takes my mind off of school, especially things like tests.

I love to cook, and so I am finding ways to cook for a good cause for my mitzvah project through organizations like Meals on Wheels and Ronald McDonald House. I plan to keep learning with Judaism and living with Judaism by going to Friday night services, keeping up with the major holidays – and maybe I’ll even learn to make challah myself!

Reece Newman is the son of Michael and Jennifer Newman. He is the brother of Sydnie and Tori Newman. He is the grandson of Ed and Jill Newman of Charlotte NC, and Gerald (and Joan, z’’l) Crane of New York. Send notes of mazel tov!

Ryan Para

Parashat Vayak'heil
Saturday, March 2

My favorite thing about being Jewish is being able to celebrate holidays like Chanukah because it’s so long and fun, Purim because of the groggers, and Rosh Hashanah because of the apples and honey. To me, being a Bar Mitzvah means becoming an adult and having my opinion matter. In preparing for my Bar Mitzvah, I learned more of what the prayers mean in depth, which helped me understand our traditions better.

My mitzvah project was creating playlists of songs from the past (like Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, etc.) for the residents of Sunrise Assisted Living facility, along with donating a MP3 player and speakers. I chose this project because my Grandfather, William, suffered and passed away from Alzheimer’s and my Mom told me that even when he wasn’t himself, his favorite music always made him happy. Music seemed to be a way that he was able to recall happy memories from his past. I wanted others suffering from Alzheimer’s to have this gift as well.

After my Bar Mitzvah, I plan to keep learning about Judaism by continuing with Hebrew High, celebrating the holidays and being part of events at Temple.

Ryan is the son of Jody and Chris Para and the brother of Brynn and Wyatt. His grandparents are Cecile Waronker of Atlanta, GA and Jeanie Para & Wayne Simpson of Gainesville, GA. Send messages of Mazel Tov.

February 2019

Anneke Lewis

Parashat T'tzaveh
Saturday, February 16

My favorite thing about being Jewish is the community – that everyone helps each other and lifts each other up. As I have gone through the bat mitzvah process, including going to services and learning prayers, I have felt more and more a part of this community and able to participate in services. In preparing to become a bat mitzvah, I have learned that doing a little bit of work each day can add up and create something wonderful.

For my mitzvah project, I have been volunteering with the Charlotte Symphony Guild musical petting zoo, helping children of all ages and backgrounds learn to play brass instruments. As a French Horn player, I enjoyed seeing small children’s eyes light up when they first made a sound. As a Jewish adult, I will keep going to services and participating in this community.

Anneke is the daughter of Karen and Kevin Lewis. She is the sister of Saskia Lewis. She is the granddaughter of Dan and Linda Lewis of Seattle WA, Linda Lewis and Frank Arms of Corvallis OR, and Bob and Joyce Beck of Fort Worth TX. Send notes of Mazal Tov.

Jake Siesel

Parashat T'tzaveh
Saturday, February 16

My favorite thing about being Jewish is being different than everyone else. Throughout history, we have been enslaved and tormented for being Jewish and it is awesome to be able to practice my religion in peace. I am always happy to educate others about my religion and I have never been ashamed of being Jewish. To me, becoming a Bar Mitzvah means that I have passed the first stage of being a good Jew. Based on our Jewish traditions, we should assist our neighbors and always be happy to give a lending hand. I hope that the community service work that I did will help inspire me to do good in my community. During my preparation for becoming a Bar Mitzvah, I learned that I need to truly dedicate myself to tasks in order to not only accomplish them, but thrive.

For my mitzvah project, I was able to use my Spanish abilities to tutor a young boy that had difficulty reading. After spending time with him, his performance in the classroom drastically improved and I have developed a friendship with him and his wonderful family. I plan on continuing to tutor him and to serve as a mentor to him as he grows up. I learned that this mitzvah project was not just supposed to be just community service for 13 hours. It was supposed to teach us how to better our community and that is what I took away from it.

Jake is the son of Jason and Yami Siesel. He is the brother of Isabella Siesel. He is the grandson of Ernest and Pierrette Siesel of Boca Raton FL, Miriam Haber of Hialeah FL, and Pedro and Esther Haber of Miami, FL. Send notes of mazel tov.

Shayla Siegel

Parashat Mishpatim
Saturday, February 2

To be a Bat Mitzvah means to understand Judaism and prayer through a new and different lens. Going to Bat Mitzvah tutoring has taught me to pay more attention during services and now I have a better understanding of what the prayers mean and why we say them. While preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I found myself asking a lot of hard and unanswerable questions that everyone had an opinion about. This led me to seeking answers that fit my opinions and my beliefs. My favorite thing about being Jewish is coming together as a congregation to pray. I love going to services and being in a happy and welcoming community surrounded by the people and things I love most.

While preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I completed multiple service projects including volunteering at McKee Road Elementary School to help with their fall festival and kids’ voting. This was fun for me because I got to help out at my old school and teach kids the importance of voicing their opinion. I also made blankets and toys for the Humane Society’s dogs so they could have fun, new toys to play with and blankets to cuddle with. Another thing I did was help sell bagels to raise money for the Temple Beth El Youth Group. This was important to me because the funds help send kids like me to Jewish Camps for the summer. After completing several Mitzvah projects, I was proud of myself for doing Tikkun Olam and making the world a better place. It felt good to know that I was making a difference in the world and making an impact on others around me.

Shayla is the daughter of Michelle and Andy Siegel, and the sister of Jocelyn. She is the granddaughter of Barbara and David Bender of Reading, PA and Teri and Steve Siegel of Charlotte, NC. Send messages of Mazel Tov.

Asher Yesowitch

Parashat Mishpatim
Saturday, February 2

My favorite part of being Jewish is the food like, bagels and latkes. I also love getting together with family and friends at the holidays and creating new traditions. Becoming Bar Mitzvah means becoming a Jewish adult and having more responsibilities for the Jewish community, like leading services, reading Torah, and participating. Sheva has been fun because I like having interesting conversations with the rabbis and my friends. Preparing for my bar mitzvah confirmed what I already know because of all the times my parents brought me to services and participated in Jewish life at home.

For my mitzvah project, I sorted books that people had donated to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Then I volunteered at ImaginOn for Epicfest and helped families choose books to take home for free to build their home library. It was fun to see books I knew, and I really liked helping little kids find the book that they wanted. Lots of kids were really excited to have a book to take home. I will keep learning about Judaism by participating in Hebrew High and continue to learn more Torah by tutoring other b’nei mitzvah students in the future.

Asher is the son of Martha and Brian Yesowitch and the brother of Nora. His grandparents are Glenn and Pam Link of Augusta, GA and Bill and Judy Yesowitch of Delray Beach, FL. Send notes of congratulations.

January 2019

Eli Vitner

Parashat Yitro
Saturday, January 26

My favorite thing about being Jewish is celebrating the holidays – especially Chanukah, because of the presents. To me, being a bar mitzvah means becoming an adult but still a minor. You don’t have all the abilities of an adult, but you’re no longer considered a child in the eyes of Judaism.

What I learned about myself when preparing for my bar mitzvah is that I skip a lot of words when reading. I like to simplify things when possible. Moving forward, I plan to continue to go to services and celebrate the holidays.

Eli Vitner is the son of Amy and Mark Vitner. He is the brother of Saul and Sylvia Vitner. He is the grandson of Roger and Susan Gamache of Florida and Joan Vitner of Atlanta, Georgia. He is the great-grandson of Jeanne Gamache of Massachusetts. Send notes of mazel tov.

Kyle Vogel

Parashat Bo
Saturday, January 12

My favorite thing about Judaism is definitely the food and holidays! The food is amazing and I love having excuses to be able to get together with family! To me being a bar mitzvah means being older and more responsible. This title makes me able to do harder tasks or activities in the community. I enjoy learning about Judaism and events that happened in the Torah and in Jewish history.

For my mitzvah project I went to an old age home and helped them with their technological challenges. They asked a ton of questions and some called me “genius” as I walked out. One lady came every time I was there. She had a couple new questions every time and told everyone how helpful I was. I chose to do this because I thought it would be a fun service project and I thought I could be helpful using my tech-knowledge to help people who are struggling with modern gadgets. Helping people is one of the best feelings in the world. I plan to keep volunteering many times a year, and to also visit Israel many more times in my lifetime.

Kyle is the son of Jonathan Vogel and Lisa Vogel, and the stepson of Steve Kirschner. Kyle is the younger brother of Shayna and Ryan Vogel and the stepbrother of Alexa and Marcus Kirschner. He is the grandson of Ellen Adelman (z’l) , Jim Adelman of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Rita Vogel (z’l), and Warren Vogel of Boynton Beach, Florida. He is also the step grandson of Coca Vogel of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Joan Kirschner (Lewis Kirschner – z’l) of Charlotte, North Carolina. Messages of Mazel Tov can be sent to and

December 2018

Alexa Bullard

Parashat Mikeitz
Saturday, December 15

My favorite parts about being Jewish are being a part of a community that comes together to support each other, and the holidays and traditions that we have as Jews. In the Jewish community, I have noticed that everybody that I have met here is very kind and helpful. I noticed this when I started my bat mitzvah project, and some people I have never met before asked me how they could help. That meant a lot to me because it reminds me how everybody here will be glad to help you. I love the holidays we have as Jews (mostly Chanukah:). I love the holidays because they are always a very warm time, I would say. I love all of the foods we have, like latkes, brisket, and all of our other delicious foods. I always feel good around the holidays and I hope you all had a great Chanukah!

To become a bat mitzvah to me, means that I am passing into adulthood and taking on more responsibilities and choices that will guide me in my life. I can choose what I want to do in the Jewish community, if I want to keep kosher, how I can keep doing mitzvot, and many more things. As I make these decisions, it will guide me into what kind of person I will turn out to be. I am very excited to become a bat mitzvah.

Something I have learned when preparing for my bat mitzvah is that in the Torah, a lot of the words in there have the same tune, they are just chanted in a different order each time. I learned this when I was learning my Torah portion and Haftarah with the highlighting. I realized that the highlighting represents the words that have the same tune. That surprised me because I have never thought about that before.

For my bat mitzvah project, I decided to donate my time to help foster children. I did this by gathering essential things like duffel bags, toiletries, and blankets. We also gathered things for them to do like coloring books, journals and stuffed animals for the little kids. These kids are most likely in a very bad situation where they had no time to prepare to be removed from their family. These things are for them to get through their first couple of weeks when they may not have access to much. I also helped at the Childrens’ Home Society at the holiday party for foster families.

Now that I am a Jewish adult, I plan to keep helping out my community by continuing donating my time to helping people that need my help. I want to do this because it makes me feel good that I can help out the people that are less fortunate than we are. It is good to know that we can use our benefits to help others.

Alexa is the daughter of Debbie and Greg Bullard. She is the sister of Maia Bullard. She is the great granddaughter of Shirley Kamenetz from Greensboro, NC and the granddaughter of Fran Kaplan from Greensboro, NC and Sue and Carroll Bullard from Woodstock, GA. Send notes of mazel tov.

Harrison Cohen

Parashat Mikeitz
Saturday, December 15

My favorite things about being Jewish are the holiday traditions because of the great food and spending time with family. To me, becoming a Bar Mitzvah means becoming an adult and taking on new responsibilities (even if they are not fun responsibilities, such as chores). Preparing for my Bar Mitzvah, I have learned that after years of going to Hebrew school, I still have so much more to learn for my Bar Mitzvah. It also taught me that this is such an important milestone in my life and that I am going to remember it forever.

My Bar Mitzvah project was volunteering at an organization called Freedom School which helps families who are in need. Young children would read to me, and I would help them, so they could learn to be better readers. I also helped with family dinners that were hosted at the JCC. Another thing I volunteered for was making sandwiches for the Salvation Army families. I chose these projects because they both involve people who must worry about things that they should not have to worry about like if they have enough food to eat. What I got out of doing these things are the smiles and the appreciation of the people I helped. I plan to keep learning about Judaism by continuing Jewish traditions as an adult.

Harrison is the son of Bridget and David Cohen. He is the brother of Ava Cohen. He is the grandson of Howard and Roseann Cohen of Boynton Beach, Florida and Maureen and Arthur LaBrecque of Cohoes, New York. Send notes of Mazel Tov.

Lucas Atkins

Parashat Vayeishev
Saturday, December 1

Becoming a Bar Mitzvah means being an adult in the Jewish Community and taking Judaism into my daily life. I quickly figured out that becoming a bar mitzvah was a lot of work and I would need to practice every day. For my Mitzvah project I volunteered to help try to get dogs adopted by talking with people and holding the dogs. After I did this I felt good because I now know that these dogs deserve a home and they should not be treated poorly. I also volunteered at a youth basketball camp to help my coach train young kids.

My favorite part of being Jewish is my grandmother’s matzah ball soup. However, being Jewish means more than great food. Judaism includes doing good deeds, observing the commandments and mitzvot, and praying to God. Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is giving me more responsibility as a Jew. I am going to continue being Jewish through my prayers, celebrations of the holidays with family, and learning.

Lucas Atkins is the son of Robin and Jim Atkins and the brother of Sonia. HIs grandparents, Harriet Hurlich of Charlotte, NC and Daniel and Carol Atkins of Winston-Salem. Send notes of congratulations.

Asher Nore

Parashat Vayeishev
Saturday, December 1

My favorite thing about being Jewish is that I am a part of the Jewish community which is so powerful together that we can do anything. The Jewish community is a beautiful community that is always supportive to each other and always happy to support those who aren’t Jewish.

To become a bar mitzvah means to me that I become a Jewish adult who is a responsible and trustworthy person. This could mean being responsible to make your lunch in the morning or washing dishes. Or it could mean bigger responsibilities like working at a job.

In preparing for my bar mitzvah I have learned parts of the Torah that I didn’t know what they meant in English. This has really helped me understand some of the Jewish history that I have never understood before.

My mitzvah project consisted of spending time helping teachers at my school and at my brother’s elementary school prepare their classrooms for the upcoming school year. I was happy to help these people and didn’t just do it just because I had to. I was excited to help the community and be a good change in the world. To keep learning from and living with Judaism, I will continue attending and participating in services.

Asher is the son of Seth Nore and Kimberley Odom, the stepson of Mandie Nore, and is the older brother of Levi Nore and Brantley Odom. He is the grandson of Linda Nore, the late Norman Nore, Gary Dromms, and Shirley Dromms, all of Charlotte NC. Send emails of Mazel Tov.

November 2018

Maxwell Wine

Parashat Vayishlach
Saturday, November 24

My favorite thing about being Jewish is being part of a community. Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is meaningful to me because it is like becoming a man. I have more responsibilities and my opinion counts more than when I was a child. In preparing for my Bar Mitzvah I learned that it takes a lot of commitment and bravery to be able to stand up and do a good job at leading the service.

My mitzvah project was collecting athletic equipment that I donated to Refugee Support Services. I chose this project because I am interested in sports and I knew that a lot of refugees often arrive in this country with very few possessions and probably without sports equipment. On the day that we made the donation, it felt really good to see the smiles on the faces of all of the kids and parents who received a ball. Thanks to donations of over $600 from friends and family, we gave away over 160 balls.

Now that I am an adult in the Jewish community, I plan to keep learning about Judaism by continuing with Religious School and Hebrew High and participating in events at the temple and JCC.

Max Wine is the son of Mark and Wendy Wine. He is the brother of Amanda and the grandson of Robert Wine of Shelby, NC and Allan and Linda Klepper of Barrington, RI. Send messages of Mazal Tov.  

Ella Mellone

Parashat Tol'dot
Saturday, November 10

My favorite thing about being Jewish is the food. I love when my mom cooks hamentaschen at Purim and latkes at Hanukkah. Becoming a Bat Mitzvah means that I have more responsibilities. I have to take on new tasks and try new things. While I was preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I have learned that it takes time and hard work to learn the blessings and the Torah portion. I plan to keep learning about Judaism and going to services on holidays.

For my mitzvah project I volunteered at Loaves and Fishes. People and organizations donate food to give to the homeless. I helped organize the food onto shelves. Then, I packed food into paper bags for those who need the food. It felt good volunteering at Loaves and Fishes because I got to help people in need. I also feel fortunate for what I have, feel responsible to help others.

Ella is the daughter of Melanie and Greg Mellone. She has an older brother, Josh. Send notes of congratulations.

Alexander Lewis

Parashat Chayei Sarah
Saturday, November 3

My favorite thing about being Jewish is the culture and the food. My favorite Jewish food is Matzah Ball soup during the Passover Seder. Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is an important day in my life because it is the day I will be a grown up in the Jewish faith and shows that I worked to accomplish a pretty big thing.

For my mitzvah project I volunteered with the boy scouts for a local organization. A group of over 100 went to the houses of less fortunate people and helped fix things in their homes that were in need of repair because they couldn’t afford it or do the work themselves.  I worked on a woman’s home to help put new gutters on, did yardwork for and helped paint the inside of her house. She was a veterinarian before she retired and had some rough times.

After my Bar Mitzvah, I will continue to attend Hebrew High and be part of next year’s Confirmation Class. I look forward to learning about all the different religions in that class and going on the Confirmation Trip.

Alex and Ryan are the children of James and Beth Lewis and the siblings of Darien and Tyler Lewis. They are the grandchildren of Arnold and Beverly Rosenfeld of Indian Land, SC. Send messages of mazal tov.

Ryan Lewis

Parashat Chayei Sarah
Saturday, November 3

My favorite part of being Jewish is the food, specifically Matzah Ball soup and hard boiled eggs at Passover.  I also have enjoyed getting to meet so many new people at Hebrew School.  Becoming a Bar Mitzvah to me means becoming an adult at Temple, which means I will get to go to Hebrew High and take more interesting and fun classes.

My Mitzvah project was a service project I did with the boy scouts in Waxhaw. We helped people who needed to get their houses fixed but they don’t have the money to do it or they have other challenges that prevent them from doing it themselves. I got to go under someone’s house and help put new support beams under the house in the crawlspace. The woman I helped was very nice and appreciative of our help and talked to me about her life.

After the Bar Mitzvah I am looking forward to Hebrew High and making more Jewish friends.

Alex and Ryan are the children of James and Beth Lewis and the siblings of Darien and Tyler Lewis. They are the grandchildren of Arnold and Beverly Rosenfeld of Indian Land, SC. Send messages of mazal tov.

October 2018

Andrew Lord

Parashat Vayeira
Saturday, October 27

My favorite thing about being Jewish is the community. I have so many Jewish friends and have loved getting to know them. I also love my home away from home, Camp Coleman. I have made so many life-long memories at there and I hope to make many more.

To me, becoming a Bar Mitzvah means having a larger role in the community. As people treat me more like an adult, I also have a role in participating in services, learning, and helping those who are in need.

Perseverance is an important quality when learning Hebrew. Learning Hebrew requires patience and practice. Fortunately, I had help from teachers and tutors. But I also learned that I am capable of doing difficult things.

For my mitzvah project, I made sandwiches for the homeless shelter. I created a fundraiser, bought the supplies, and then gathered my friends to help me make the food. We made hundreds of sandwiches and bagged lunches with two sandwiches in each bag, a bottle of water, chips, a banana, and a cream pie for dessert. My mom and I then delivered the sandwiches to the homeless shelter.

I plan to keep learning about Judaism through Camp Coleman and Hebrew High. Going to Hebrew High will help me stay in touch with friends and keep learning about my religion as well. I plan to be an active member of our community.

Andrew Lord is the son of Annie and Harrison Lord. He has a younger sister, Hadley. Send messages of congratulations.

Nathan Moreland

Parashat Vayeira
Saturday, October 27

My favorite thing about being Jewish is being unique – I like that I am different from most of my friends at school and in the neighborhood.  I like celebrating the holidays and teaching people about them.  Becoming a Bar Mitzvah means that I am now more responsible for my own choices and that I am an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community.  The process of becoming a Bar Mitzvah has taught me that I can achieve what I want if I put my mind and efforts towards my goals.  It has helped me to becoming more responsible and to better manage my time.

For my Mitzvah Project, I volunteered with Room in the Inn, which provides housing and meals for the homeless.  I enjoyed helping others less fortunate and it made me realize how lucky my family and I are to have the privileges that we have.

I believe that religion is an important aspect of everyday life.  I will try to lead each day with the idea of Tikkun Olam in mind – looking at every part of my day with the thought of how can I help or make something into a better situation.

Nathan is the son of Ted and Lisa Moreland of Charlotte, NC.  He is the grandson of Ann and the late Rick Lippe of Pittsburgh, PA and Ellen Moreland and the late Ford Moreland of Pittsburgh PA.  Nathan is the younger brother to Quincey Moreland. Send words of mazel tov.