It was a gala Bar Mitzvah like no other as Kol Yakov Yehuda celebrated 13 years of its wildly successful junior congregation with fun and festivities at a lavish black tie affair attended by the dozens of boys and girls who come together each week for a memorable Shabbos davening.
Kol Yakov Yehuda, under the auspices of Congregation Levi Yitzchok of Hancock Park, was established in Los Angeles in 2002 in memory of Rabbi JJ Hecht whose 25th Yartzeit is this Friday Tu B’av, as a youth program for children ages three and up.
Now boasting six separate divisions, KYY offers age appropriate davening for even the little congregants, an Ezras Noshim and Ezras Anashim for older boys and girls and a Gesher Group for children of all abilities staffed by special volunteers.
Run “by kids for kids,” KYY holds annual elections to appoint a president, vice president and secretary of state, with the eighth grade boys playing the role of gabbaim, taking on junior rabbi responsibilities, giving a weekly drasha, and overseeing day to day operations of the shul.
The 120 boys and girls who come to KYY each week, known as “The Rebbe’s Diamond Daveners,” flocked to Kanner Hall for a spectacular evening both in honor of both KYY’s 13th year and in memory of 11 year old KYY member, Chaya Spalter, ob’m. From the professional red carpet pictures to the magnificent decor to the sumptuous cuisine, every moment of the carefully choreographed KYY bar mitzvah was a true simcha, celebrated to the max.
The evening began promptly at 6:30 with hors d’oeuvres and special shul-themed kiddie cocktails prepared by KYY’s own mini-bartenders. Guests enjoyed the skillfully prepared pineapple and coconut “Pina-Kavono” and “Shul-y Temple” non-alcoholic mixed drinks, among others, and were entertained by a rolling magician. The official program began at 6:45 with a formal dinner and a variety of arcade games and each of the Diamond Daveners found a small tefillin bag filled with goodies at their seat.
Among those who spoke during the evening were emcee Sholom Schapiro and past KYY president Shmuelli Wolowik, who chazered the Bar mitzvah Mamer, then the Rebbe’s letter was read by Rabbi Menachem Greenbaum of Cheder Menachem. Rabbi Mendel Duchman, founder and director of KYY, delivered the keynote address and KYY’s older girls’ division, known as the “Ezras Nashim” was officially dedicated as “Chaya’s Ezras Nashim” in loving memory of Chaya Spalter.
The evening continued with energetic simcha dancing, arcade games, contests, prizes and a video presentation chronicling KYY’s 13 years of service to the community. Dessert, consisting of an overflowing Viennese table laden with sumptuous goodies and treats, and bentshing were followed by even more dancing that continued well into the night.
A GoFundMe campaign to finance the evening was an overwhelming success and several prominent party planners and other generous vendors donated supplies for the gala event.
Rabbi Duchman noted that KYY has already surpassed his greatest expectations and he hopes to see the number of The Rebbe’s Diamond Daveners continue to grow with each passing year.
“I hope that our success here will inspire others to pick an idea and run with it,” said Rabbi Duchman. “Each one of has the ability to contribute and to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Commemorating Rabbi Hecht’s 25th Yahrtzeit, Duchman – his son in law – stated, “To the world he is a household name and a Chossid, to me as an individual he was my inspiration since my childhood. He continues to be one of my driving forces to continue KYY, as taking care of youth and education was one of his main lifelong goals.”