My Bat Mitzvah Girl and My Bubby Fruma, a Hero of the Holocaust by Elana Mizrahi

My Bat Mitzvah Girl and My Bubby Fruma, a Hero of the Holocaust by Elana Mizrahi

One Chanukah morning, I attended the bat mitzvah of the daughter of my old friend, Elana Mizrachi. I’ve known Elana for over 20 years. I remember when she was my husband’s student. I remember when she was dating her husband. I remember davening for Elana Mira bat Cherna to be blessed with a child–for almost 4 years. And baruch Hashem, today now Elana is the mother of five beautiful children. And that’s part of why I felt especially emotional at the bat mitzvah for her oldest daughter, Frida. But that wasn’t the only reason…
At the bat mitzvah, which Elana decorated so beautifully and baked and cooked up a storm for all by herself, I found out something I never knew about Elana. Elana’s grandmother, Fruma Rabinowitz, had also been a big cook, but under drastically different circumstances.
Elana’s grandmother was one of only a handful of Jews to successfully flee the Warsaw Ghetto, and survived the rest of the war in a Polish forest, cooking for approximately 6000 partisans.
Sitting at that bat mitzvah, my eyes filled up with tears of gratitude. Not only to see Elana the mother of such a big, beautiful family. But also because we were celebrating the bat mitzvah of the great-granddaughter of a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto–a girl living a life full of Torah and mitzvot, in the Holy City and the Holy Land. Thank God!

Here’s what Elana shared with me about the bat mitzvah:

It was so much work, or I made it into so much work. Not for me, but for my daughter, for the occasion, I wanted it to be special. Not having time nor the money, but making the time and saving the money, I rolled up my sleeves and did my best.

Elana with her two daughters, Frida and Tehila Bracha

I chopped, I sliced, I sautéed, and I “spiced.” I mixed and poured, kneaded and baked. Everything had to be “homemade” and with that special ingredient, that special “spice” that I inherited as a loving tradition from my Bubby. That ingredient called “love,” that I – in the tradition of Jewish mothers- am doing this just because I love you, my dear Frida.

And we did it! We made a beautiful homemade seudat hodayah meal in honor of my daughter, Frida Tamar’s bat mitzvah.

My daughter’s bat mitzvah! Just saying that is a miracle that brings tears of joy to my eyes and a smile to my lips. Her existence is a miracle, my existence is a miracle. Every Jewish person’s existence is a miracle.

During the bat mitzvah preparations, my mother, visiting from California, commented to me, “Elana, you work so hard!”

Yes, it’s true. I work so hard and I can’t say that the life I chose or choose is easy. But look what I am working hard for! For life!

“Mommy,” I tell her, “Bubby cooked for life, to survive, and so I am too!”

What did I mean?

Tears of joy and gratitude went into my cooking as I thought of my Bubby Fruma a”h and how she too cooked for life, for survival. For her own survival, for the survival of her fellow partisans, and for the survival of the Jewish people. My Bubby escaped the Nazis and joined the partisan fighters. She used to cook for the partisans in the forest, miraculously creating something from what was surely almost nothing.
And I felt, cooking for Frida’s bat mitzvah, that I was also cooking for survival because the survival of the Jewish people is based on us living as and celebrating that we are and can be Jews! What a contrast- a survivor from the ghetto cooking to survive, and me making a pretty purple and pink bat mitzvah for my daughter with an abundance of blessing and food. An observant Jewish woman, a Jewish mother, living in Jerusalem, cooking for a miraculous celebration of life, the momentous occasion when a Jewish girl becomes a Jewish woman.

Thank You, Bubby Fruma. And thank You, Hashem, for all your kindnesses.

6 comments

  1. Beautiful! Mazal tov Elana to you, your daughter Frida Tamar, and to the entire Jewish people!!!

  2. Lovely picture! May They see much nachat from all their children.

  3. So beautiful! Thank you Elana for sharing your perspective- it really inspires me!!! May you continue to see nachas from your beautiful family for generations to come!

  4. Elana Mira Mizrahi

    AMEN! Thank YOU!

  5. Love this! Brought tears to my eyes… mazel Tov for the Bas mitzvsh! Such a beautiful and honest perspective. This was especially inspiring to me as a made a Simcha yesterday and yes it was a lot of time, effort, energy, cooking, setting up, getting all the children ready and in 2 hours it was all over… but I know that my child and our family and will always have the warm memories of a beautiful Simcha.

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