Photos by Emily Breckenridge Photography

Everyone remembers their bar or bat mitzvah. It is a very important day to every Jewish kid. My bat mitzvah was on March 24, 2018, at Beth Sholom Synagogue.

We all know that most people don’t arrive at the starting time of the service. I’ll always remember the moment when I had finished the Shacharit service and turned around to find three times the amount of people sitting before me than had been there when I first started.

I had worked for many months learning all the prayers, my Torah portion, and my Haftorah, thanks to my amazing tutors, David Moinester and Rose Ross. Even though it took a lot of time and energy, I’ll never forget how special it was to me and my family. My Torah (portion) was Tzav. The main point of this portion is about sacrifices. It’s the complete guide to completing sacrifices in ancient times. It’s hard for us today to connect to that mitzvah, but luckily there are many ways to complete mitzvot in the 21st century.

Jillian collected more than 450 items to benefit Camp Good Grief.

One way to perform a mitzvah is by helping your community. Along with learning all the prayers, many bar or bat mitzvah kids also complete a mitzvah project. They find an organization or a cause that speaks to them, and create a project around that organization’s mission.

My project was for Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Grief. This organization is very meaningful to me, because they helped me and my brother through a hard time. Kemmons Wilson helps children who have lost a loved one. After losing my father two years ago, my brother and I went there to work on our grief. They have helped many kids work on their grief in healthy ways, and are some of the most supportive people I have ever met. Every summer, they have a three-day camp for kids who have recently lost a loved one where they meet kids who have gone through similar things. It’s called Camp Good Grief. This summer camp is very beneficial, and it will always be a great memory for me. You can also meet lifelong friends. My brother met a boy named Tyler, and they are still good friends to this day.

For my project, I asked my community and friends to donate items for Camp Good Grief such as crayons, scissors, paper and scrapbooking supplies. This camp and the consoling provided by Kemmons Wilson is 100% free, so every kid has an opportunity to get the help they need. Because of this, they need all the help they can get in order to continue providing these services. By giving them supplies, they are able to spend money on other things needed to run the camp and the center. I also received monetary donations. In all, we received about 450 items and over $1,400 in donations. It is very rewarding to see how my community helped me reach my goal.

This summer, I will be a volunteer “camp consoler” and I can’t wait. Besides helping me through my grief, it was also a very fun camp, and I am so excited that I can now help campers the way others have helped me.

Jillian has been studying aerials for five years. She performed a silks routine at her bat mitzvah celebration.

Besides studying prayers and collecting items for my project, I also dedicated hours every week to learning an aerials routine that I performed at my bat mitzvah party, which was held at Sara’s Place at Memphis Botanic Garden. If you aren’t familiar with aerials, think Cirque De Soleil. I have been practicing aerials for five years, and have learned to do routines on the silks, trapeze bar, and hoop, among other things. Even though I had to sacrifice several hours every week going to the gym instead of hanging out with my friends, it was worth it. Sharing my passion for aerials with so many friends and family, and to celebrate my bat mitzvah with them, was something I will always treasure.

If I had one piece of advice to share with someone who is about to have a bar or bat Mitzvah, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity to practice, it is worth it.