All the sixth-graders at Congregation B’nai Israel in Basking Ridge will undertake their own individual projects as part of their bar or bat mitzva celebration. But on May 2, they culminated their year-long joint mitzva project by getting together with a special group of guests.
In honor of Seniors Appreciation Month, the students hosted 32 residents from the nearby Ridge Oak Senior Housing complex. They had lunch together, and then the students, one by one, shared with their elders what they had learned about some famous Jewish Americans.
Sheri Lapa of Warren, a past president of the congregation and currently the teacher of the sixth-grade Sunday class, said that in the course of the year, the children learned about the waves of Jewish immigration to the United States, and then each child focused on one famous Jewish American.
“The result,” said Lapa, “was this wonderful luncheon, where they not only presented their famous Jewish-American to the Ridge Oak seniors, but they also spent some time with the seniors and made their day a little brighter.”
Before the meal on May 2, Rabbi John Schechter and the youngsters gave their guests a tour of the B’nai Israel sanctuary. Schechter told the seniors about the congregation’s history, and the children performed some songs for them.
The history presentations began after lunch. The children went from table to table, so that the seniors could hear each of them describe their famous American Jew. The people they picked included Milton Hershey, Levi Strauss, Alla Nazimova — flamboyant star of Hollywood silent films — the poet Emma Lazarus, and Isaac Leeser, who was the first person to translate the Torah into English.
According to those present, enthusiastic applause followed each presentation. Seniors called out, “You covered it all,” “Very well presented,” and “Fascinating!” The students said they had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed talking with the Ridge Oak residents.
There was still one treat in store for the guests. The children made picture frames, and each of the seniors will receive a picture of the day’s participants, as a memento of their day at CBI.