Last year, Samantha Kraftsow came here from Manhattan at the worst time imaginable - in 7th grade, just after her bat mitzvah. But as you can see below, her experience of transition turned out to be very positive and instructional. I invited her to celebrate a "Not Mitzvah" here since we couldn't be part of the celebration the first time around. She came up for her official "Not Mitzvah" aliyah yesterday, and she also gave this very moving d'var Torah, focusing on the figure of Joseph and her original Bat Mitzvah portion of Vayeshev. Here are Sam's words:
A Bat Mitzvah is about getting to a certain age and coming into Judaism as an adult. I was a Bat Mitzvah on December 12, 2009 at East End Temple in New York City. My Parshat was Veyshev. In my Parashat, Joseph gets sold by his brothers and sent off to Egypt. While he’s in Egypt he works for Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife keeps on trying to make Joseph fall in love with her. She frames him, and he ends up in jail. But Joseph goes through this horrible ordeal and comes out undamaged and not emotionally upset.
I understand Joseph’s situation. He has been taken to a strange land, far away from family and friends. He is in jail, in extremely difficult circumstances. I feel Joseph is choosing whether or not to give up. I admire Joseph’s quality of never giving up. Not only that, he uses all of his talents to get out of jail. For example, he uses his ability to get along with different kinds of people and to interpret dreams. I identify with Joseph. I also chose not to give up when things got tough for me.
I moved to Stamford from New York City. Its very different from New York City and the change has been difficult. You can’t walk here like you can in New York City. Things close early. I didn’t have any friends at first. I felt isolated – just like Joseph. I was in a new school. I had to try new experiences and live in a new culture, like Joseph did.
What I feel helped Joseph besides his refusal to not give up was his relationship with G-d. I feel I have a relationship with G-d too, just the way Joseph did. It helped Joseph and it helps me get through hard circumstances. I think that it is comforting to everyone here to know that G-d and Judaism are never going anywhere. They will always be here. And knowing that something is never going away when you go through many changes, like I did, is important. That G-d was with Joseph may have comforted him when he was in the pit and in jail and when he was away from his family and friends. Joseph was alone and had no one else except G-d and I think that he would have gone into a depression or had a lot of sadness if it wasn’t for the fact that G-d was always with him.
In tough times I find that it helps and makes you feel good inside knowing that many people care about you, such as friends and family. You feel known and supported.
Rabbi Hammerman helped me by allowing me to be in his Hebrew School class even though I had had my Bat Mitzvah already. I made friends in the class and met Mrs. Hammerman. Mrs. Hammerman was my teacher and made me feel welcome and not so nervous on my first day and every day has been kind to me. Mrs. Miller my guidance counselor at school looked out for me and made everything go easier at school. My mom made the right choice by moving up here. I’m starting to realize that. I’m a better student here and I feel better about myself. The Cantor helped me by offering his help in reviewing the prayers with me.
When tough times come again these experiences I’ve had can teach me and everyone here how to get through them.
Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Samantha Kraftsow on Moving to a Strange Land
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