Sammy Bernstein, of Woodmere, celebrating his bar mitzvah in Israel

Mark and Felicia Bernstein of Woodmere were looking for a unique way to celebrate their son Sammy’s bar mitzvah. They wanted to make it a meaningful experience not only for Sammy, his family, and friends but for others as well. They wanted it to represent the values that they wanted to transfer to Sammy on his entering ‘manhood’–love of the Torah, Land of Israel, State of Israel, and the brave soldiers of Israel.

They contacted Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive VP emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, to inquire about the Young Israel movement’s sifrei Torah for the IDF project ( and what resulted was Sammy’s bar mitzvah on the Zikkim base near Ashkelon, attended by 100 family members and friends, and over 500 soldiers.

Sammy read beautifully from the Torah on the synagogue on the base; the festive prayers were accompanied by chazzanim, followed by a celebratory breakfast. As Sammy, his family, and guests left the sukkah, they were greeted by some 500 soldiers standing at attention by the sefer Torah adorned in a Torah cover in memory of Sammy’s grandmother, Rosa Feder, z’l. The music began and an hour of unrivaled and joyous dancing took place, with not only the Torah being held aloft but also Sammy and his father, Mark. Honored with carrying the Torah after Sammy was his grandfather, Moshe Feder.

When the music finally softened and the dancing slowed, the base commander presented Sammy with a plaque of thanks from the unit, followed by Mr. Ceec Harrishburg (president, IYIM, International Young Israel Movement—Israel region) who presented certificates to both Sammy and his parents to commemorate the special occasion. This was followed by speeches from Mark Bernstein and Rabbi Heshie Billet, mara d’asra of the Young Israel of Woodmere.

The day was not done as the guests were treated by the officers and soldiers of the base to an explanation and demonstration of the search and rescue methods used by the IDF in times of civilian disaster and war. The day ended with a lunch in the base sukkah where the guests were addressed by Felicia Bernstein and of course Sammy, who will never forget his special day.


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