(Chabad.org) Kaylee Andrusier’s Bat Mitzvah celebration wasn’t about the party or the gifts. For the Bal Harbour, Fla., resident, it was about bringing happiness to fellow 12-year-old girls living in the shadow of Palestinian rocket fire.
“I always had a thing in my heart for orphans, and I love Israel,” Andrusier says in explaining why she decided to take her own Bat Mitzvah gifts and make a party for 12 girls from Sderot, a southern Israeli town practically bordering the Gaza Strip.
Last Wednesday, Andrusier and her family celebrated with the group of girls during a day of activities in Jerusalem organized by Rabbi Menachem Kutner of the Chabad Terror Victims Project.
The 12-year-old, parents Yaakov and Devorah Andrusier and grandparents Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Sholom and Chana Lipskar of The Shul of Bal Harbour stood at one of the Old City’s gates to welcome their guests, escorted by Chabad of Sderot directors Rabbi Moshe and Sima Pizem. The group then proceeded to the Western Wall before heading to a guided tour of the Generations Center and a dinner party at a nearby restaurant.
“It wasn’t about me taking them out for dinner,” explains Andrusier. “It meant so much more. These are definitely not regular girls. They can come home from school or camp and, G-d forbid, their house could be on fire or one of their parents may not be alive.”
Her mother couldn’t agree more.
“It was much more that I thought it would be,” says Devorah Andrusier, youth director at The Shul. “It was really impactful.”
Of the 12 girls who attended, four had lost a parent to Palestinian attacks. Another lost her hearing and another still speaks with a stutter because of the trauma of an explosion.
Shir Kuznitz, who lost her mother a while back, says she met a new friend.
“I am so happy that I have a new friend from Florida,” she beams. “And thanks to her I had a meaningful Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall that was also a lot of fun!”
Andrusier, who had been pen-pals with one of the girls before the party, and the rest of the group exchanged e-mail addresses and pledged to stay in touch. She’s already planning to visit them in Sderot this December.
“It warms the heart to see people living outside of Israel whose hearts are in Israel, and who educate their children to love the Land of Israel,” states Kutner. “That is exactly why our organization was founded.”