I spent last Sunday listening to 12 confident and poised young ladies speak in eloquent terms about Jewish women that have had an impact on their lives.  Some spoke fondly of their Babas and Mothers, others recounted the lives of Jewish heroes like Anne Frank and Chana Senesh.  This was the closing ceremonies of the 2006/07 Bat Mitzvah Club, or as it is more fondly called, the BMC. 
Although the club colours may be pink and purple, do not mistake this club as a "Girlie" undertaking.  Brought together by Mrs. Chana Heidingsfeld under the auspices of the Chabad Centre, these girls have spent the past year learning very important life lessons while having a fun social outlet. 
When I first started planning our daughter Marina's Bat Mitzvah, I was overwhelmed by stories of grand parties and thousands of dollars spent on what was essentially no less a production than a full scale wedding!  We wanted to ensure that there was some meaning to this time in our daughter's life, and that being a Bat Mitzvah was about more than the theme for your party.  I had heard of the BMC from my daughter's teacher, among others.  The program has been operating for several years now, and many of the participants have gone on to form lasting friendships.  But we are not an overly religious family, I thought, and although my daughter had attended Channukah and Passover programs at the Chabad centre, would she feel comfortable there?  I had no need to worry!  Chana stressed to the girls that this was their club, and they were going to run it.  The girls were from both the South and North end and each girl took a turn hosting a meeting.  There were also jobs for the other members, such as social secretary, photographer and Mystery Moment leader.  Halfway through the year a Shabbaton was held at the Heidingsfeld's residence and  for many days afterwards I heard about how much fun it was.  I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting when Marina hosted at our house.  I was very impressed with how gently, and ever so subtly, a fine message was being taught to the girls.  From their club motto and song to the merit charms they were able to earn for their bracelets, the message was clear.  They were learning how to be true to themselves, how to be good friends, and in general, good Jews.  Nothing preachy, nothing forced.  Chana excelled at teaching the girls self-relection, thoughtfulness, and how to make killer cookies!  There were craft projects, guest speakers, and a special Chesed project where they visited residents of the Simkin Centre Sharon Home.  They came bearing roses and their youthful enthusiasm, and the residents were delighted!  The Tsedaka they collected over the course of the year was donated to a Jewish family who was having a difficult time coping due to illness.
What started out as a group of giggly, goofy, pre-teen girls culminated last Sunday with a group of wonderful young women ready to take their place as productive citizens  in this Jewish community as well as the greater community at large,   This was in no small part due to Chana Heidingsfeld and the BMC.  If your daughter is approaching that time in her life, whether she chooses to have a formal Bat Mitzvah or not, I highly recommend joining the BMC.  For us, it was the perfect counter-balance to the material side of Marina's Bat Mitzvah.  In her own words...BMC Rocks!!
Rosemarie Herscovitch
Last Sunday, I was privileged to observe my daughter participate in her monthly Bat Mitzvah Club meeting with a diverse group of friends from different schools around Winnipeg.
Although the girls are all in their bat mitzvah year, I soon found out that the focus of these meetings is not on the girl’s upcoming bat mitzvahs, but on their becoming a bat mitzvah. Through roll play and thought provoking questions and discussions about common challenges and decisions that the girls encounter, the girls were challenged to think deeper about themselves, their relationships and their souls.
The bat mitzvah Club slogan “by girls, for girls, starring girls” was very apparent as the girls took charge and led the various parts of the meeting. With each girl having a position such as emcee, secretary, photographer etc. I saw how this empowered my daughter and raised the girls self confidence and leadership skills helping prepare them for their roles as proud, active Jewish women.
At each meeting the girls do an activity connected with the theme of the activity. This time the girls assembled a large, 4 foot lego menorah. The assembled menorah has been gracing my living room table until the girls will be going to help install the menorah at the children’s hospital emergency waiting room. Chana Heidingsfeld, the club leader (or facilitator, as she would describe her roll) has arranged with the hospital for the girls to set it up in time for Chanukah.
The girls had a lot of fun putting it together, but more importantly by the knowledge that they would be able to bring the warmth of Chanukah and its powerful message of hope against great odds to young children at a most difficult time in their lives.
As I sat enthralled soaking up every moment of the meeting (which was at my home as my daughter was the hostess),Ifelt so happy for my daughter and her friends that they have such an opportunity  to learn  a special spiritual  connection that should last them their lifetime. To see the girls discussing serious practical issues,discovering themselves and the Jewish outlook on life made me feel  so proud  and grateful.
Marsha Friedman.
  T’hilim 45:14כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה
 “The true majesty of a royal daughter lies within her”. Psalms 45:14
I think that this quote embodies the central goal of the Bat Mitzvah Club.
Through our daughters’ experiences in the Bat Mitzvah Club, they have come to understand many important Jewish values. My daughter Jana, has benefited greatly by being part of this experience at such an important time in her life, the year leading up to her Bat Mitzvah. The BMC (as it is fondly referred to), has helped her understand the many responsibilities and Mitzvot that she will be expected to take on, as she reaches the age of Bat Mitzvah. The Bat Mitzvah Club provided a forum for the girls to explore the many wonders and challenges of becoming a woman, through a Jewish lens. They learned about responsibility as they took on the various jobs each meeting. They heard speakers, did art projects, met new friends and had a lot of fun! A highlight of the year was the Shabbaton in December, hosted by Rabbi Boruch and Chana in their home. The girls experienced a traditional shabbat and met older girls who were role models from other communities. Jana had a wonderful time. She came home with a new understanding and appreciation for the gift of Shabbat. The girls taught each other lessons about life in their monthly teachings, they gave tzedakah and did a meaningful community service at the Sharon Home.
I want to mention how much I appreciate the inclusive atmosphere that Chana created in the Bat Mitzvah Club. Each of the girls’ level of Jewish observance was respected.
I know that I can speak for the rest of the parents in thanking Chana for all her work, commitment, patience and support for our daughters this year. She has given them a wonderful taste of Judaism and many memories that will last a lifetime.
On behalf of all the parents, Chana, Todah Rabah

Sherry Wolfe-Elazar

As a parent of three children, I have had my two daughters go through the BMC. I can only say that it was a wonderful experience for them. Every Jewish girl who is of Bat-Mitzvah age should experience the BMC.

       The BMC helps these girls understand what it means to be Jewish. They emphasize the importance of studying the Torah and teaching others what they have learned. They stress the significance of being a good person and the value of volunteerism. They also learn the meaning of Chesed, acts of loving kindness. Not only is it important for them to spread positive thoughts, but to do Mitzvot on a daily basis.

       My daughters learned the meaning of friendship. The BMC gave them the opportunity to meet girls from different schools and make lasting friendships. They also learned what it means to be a member of a club and what it takes to keep a club together. They realized that for the club to be a success, they had to have self respect, respect for others, be a good friend and be open to trying new activities. 

       Through different activities, they learned many skills, had a lot of fun and strengthened their friendships. They had an opportunity to learn scrapbooking, various crafts, skin care and baking. They also have their fond memories of their shabbotton, their trip to the Children’s hospital and the Simkin Home.

      The club emphasized the importance of self introspection. Through various assignments and the use of their journals, they learned to look at themselves and realize their successes and their personal struggles. They were made to think about aspects of their lives, they would like to improve on. In return, they were able to realize their full potential in being a positive and successful Jewish woman.

      Overall, I felt the BMC increased their self-confidence, their Jewish pride and gave them the opportunity to make lasting friendships. I know that if I had another daughter, I would encourage her to join the BMC.

Sherry Requima


For my daughter Or and myself, this has been a wonderful and exciting experience. From the very first meeting back in September, I knew by Or’s enthusiasm, that she really wanted to be a part of this club. When I asked or to describe her feelings over the year, she right away said fun. She also has a much better understanding of what it means to be a bat mitzvah girl and how important it is to her.

For myself as a parent, I feel she has grown so much over the year, and that we both looked forward to the Sunday club meetings. I was always interested to hear what she learned this month and what she had made.

I encourage parents who are thinking about this program to sign up and join, you and your daughters will enjoy the experience.

I want to thank Chana and her family for all the time and effort that she put in throughout the year. She is quite amazing. Rabbi Boruch, a quick thank you for the Shabbaton, Or couldn’t stop talking about your great story telling. It was the highlight of the weekend.

On behalf of the parents again we thank you so much for giving them the knowledge and the tools to be the lovely Bat Mitzvah girls they are today.

Heather Shalom


Dear Parents, Grandparents, Siblings, friends and, most importantly, our Bat Mitzvot.  I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words of thanks. 
As our girls have grown into the young ladies they now are, we as parents, have had a lot of help raising them.  Our families, friends and their teachers have all had a hand; even their own friends have helped along the way.  But as they move into Jewish adulthood, we’ve needed a special kind of help.  We found this in Chana and Rabbi Baruch.  Your kindness and love, along with your knowledge of being Jewish combined to offer our girls a remarkable experience and learning opportunity. 
Meeting after meeting you’ve helped our girls understand what it means to move forward and become Jewish Women.  But more than that, you helped them continue their journey into becoming loving, caring, sympathetic women who will, hopefully, become women involved in their Judaism and their Jewish Community.  For this, and everything else you’ve done, we thank you.
To our Bat Mitzvot, I’d like to say that we are so very proud of you.  Each of you is blossoming into exactly the type of young Jewish woman that we have always hoped you’d become.  Please keep up the wonderful work. 
Understand that being Jewish is about traditions.  We hope for you that you fill your lives with the traditions of your family.  We look forward to seeing you take your place in your homes and in our Jewish community as Jewish adults.  During the past year, while participating in Bat Mitzvah Club, you have studied the concepts of Tzedakah and Chesed.  Keep these virtues close.  They allow you to more fully open your heart and lead richer, fuller lives.
For those of you who have already become a Bat Mitzvah and those of you yet to do so, we wish you Mazel Tov and a life full of love, laughter and learning. You are very much loved.
Thank you again to Chana and Rabbi Baruch and to all those who, in the past year have made Bat Mitzvah club so fun and worthwhile, your efforts have been greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

Lara Rykiss


Hello everyone,

I'm Rachel's Mom, Jessica and I have been asked to say a few words about Bat Mitzvah club from a parent's perspective.

Joel and I decided to sign Rachel up for Bat Mitzvah club because we thought that it would be a wonderful and meaningful start to her Bat Mitzvah journey.  We wanted to ensure that Rachel understood the meaning of becoming a Bat Mitzvah and the great significance it holds in a young woman's life.  In this day and age Bar and Bat Mitzvahs seem to have become more about the party and the gifts rather than the individual's relationship with Hashem and their connection to Judaism.  We thought that this would be the perfect antidote to that . . . and we were right. It has helped us set the tone for Rachel's transition into adulthood in exactly the way we were hoping.

In the beginning, Rachel would come home from Bat Mitzvah club and I would ask her how it was and what did she learn.   I would get the standard tween answers of “fine” and “I don't know”.  I have to admit that after a couple months of this, I was a little concerned that Rachel was not opening herself up to the process.  She did not seem to be thinking about whatever was being discussed in the meetings.  I was worried that she was not making the most of this experience.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

I'm not sure if it was our trip to Israel over the holidays (a first for our children) or the Shabaton that occurred shortly after our return, but something happened.  Rachel returned from the Shabbaton a seemingly different kid . . . actually no, a young lady.  She suddenly could not stop talking about Bat Mitzvah club and how they observed Shabbat without a single video game or television, and how much FUN that was.  She spoke about the “thread” lesson where the girls were given spools of thread and were allowed to throw it all around the room, over the rafters and generally go crazy with it.  Once they were done, Chana then instructed them to unravel it all and wind it back up.  Then they had a discussion about how the thread represented their words and once our words escape and become tangled together, it is very hard to unravel them and piece things back together.  It is really hard to undo a hurt once it has been done.  This really struck a chord with Rachel - one must think before they act.

Suddenly, she was getting it.  We started to have lots of meaningful discussions and the transition from childhood to adulthood had planted its seeds.  Bat Mitzvah club taught the girls about their connection to Hashem and their connection to the world at large.  The discussions reflected a “me to we” paradigm shift as the girls started to realize that they have a larger role to play outside of just their families.  A Bat Mitzvah signifies a young woman starting to take her place in a community and embracing the responsibilities that go along with that.  Rachel's understanding was deepening as were her thoughts and her questions.

My favourite conversation happened after the girls delivered flowers to the Grandmothers at the Sharon home on Mother's Day.  In the car Rachel seemed quite pensive.  I asked her if it was fun, and her reaction was mixed.  She said that most of the residents that she delivered flowers to were so excited to see them and hugged her and held her hand.  But then she told a sad story about one resident who seemed very frightened by the girls and the flowers and was too scared to accept the flowers and just kept asking who the girls were and why they were there.  After some coaxing, the girls were able to convince her that they were there for Mother's Day, that they meant no harm and that the flowers were for her.  Tears welled up in the woman's eyes and then she didn't want them to leave, because nobody visits her anymore.

Rachel and I then had a long talk about aging and how it is an inevitable part of life.  We talked about how people can sometimes suffer as they age and often intense confusion can set in.  Then . . . this led to a discussion about life and how life is a gift that Hashem has given each and every one of us.  We honour Hashem by making good choices for ourselves and living life to the fullest.  We spoke about how important it is to make the most of our gift of life.  We spoke about how our physical body is a gift - so work hard not to pollute it, our mind is a gift – so work hard not to pollute it either.  Honour Hashem by performing Mitzvahs, and being a Mensch.  Love Hashem, love others and most importantly and above-all, love yourself.  This conversation built upon and flowed from some of the concepts that Chana had taught the girls.   Things like: each one of them is like royalty and so they need to keep their bodies healthy, keep themselves safe in their relationships in all respects and how doing such things is a part of their relationship with Hashem. And to me, this is the greatest achievement of Bat Mitzvah Club – it began an important dialogue with our daughters that will continue into their adulthood.  I feel grateful for this and on behalf of all the parents, I want to thank Chana for giving us this beautiful gift.

 Jessica Cogan


Chana asked me to say a few words this evening from a parent’s perspective. Being new to Winnipeg I wasn’t sure I was the right choice but when I sat down to think about what I was going to say, I realized maybe that’s the key - community. The BMC is about preparing our girls for adulthood. But it’s also about them finding their place in the Jewish community. It certainly has, through both play and meaningful discussions brought that sense of community and belonging to our home. I hope that as all our girls go on to celebrate their Bat Mitzvas in the coming months, that this sense of belonging stays with them and that they continue to support each other as young women. 

So in closing I’d like to say how proud I am of all the girls tonight. I’d also like to thank Chana for sharing her knowledge and, most remarkably, her warmth throughout this year. 

Nancy Boniel