Eliana Rose Yoken is named after her loving, spunky maternal great grandmother, Ruth Quint, who passed away shortly before Eliana’s birth. A Portland native, Eliana is a graduate of Congregation Neveh Shalom’s Foundation school, where she began her early Jewish learning. Starting in kindergarten, Eliana began attending the Catlin Gabel school where she is currently a seventh grader. A dedicated learner in all of her subjects, Eliana especially loves social studies and math.
When not attending school, you can find Eliana playing tennis, volleyball on her middle school team, downhill skiing and taking drama classes. Whenever possible, Eliana can be found in the kitchen trying out a new recipe to cook or hanging out with her friends. She adores her two big sisters, Hannah and Rachel, and two crazy dogs, Zeke the golden retriever and Lexi, the cavapoo. Summers are spent at her beloved sleepaway camp in Wisconsin, where she especially enjoys watersports and arts and crafts.
A Message From Eliana About Her Mitzvah Project
When I was researching elephants, I came across an interesting documentary called “Naledi: A Baby’s Elephant's Tale.” The documentary follows an elephant herd’s amazing true story and what it's like when the matriarch dies. This was such an inspiring story and I wanted to help the organization in the documentary, Elephants Without Borders, for my mitzvah project.
Elephants Without Borders is a charitable organization dedicated to conserving wildlife and natural resources; through innovative research, education, and information sharing with all people, they strive to encourage mankind to live in harmony with wildlife and the natural world. They have multiple projects, one of which is an aerial survey to try to count the African wildlife, specifically the elephant population. Since 2001, Elephants Without Borders has amassed over 4000 hours of aerial survey flying - counting wildlife in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. “The poachers are not easing up their efforts, so the countries of Africa and supporters of elephants around the world need to keep up the fight against poaching. We have already lost over 100,000 elephants to poaching since 2007,” says Michael Chase of Elephants Without Borders.
They also have an elephant orphanage in Botswana where they rehabilitate baby elephants and reintroduce them to the wild. One of the young elephants in their orphanage is named Tuli (my personal favorite). When she was only one-month old, tiny Tuli came from the Tuli Block, the mid-east portion of Botswana. After an unfortunate human-conflict situation, Tuli lost her family and was found wandering by a lodge owner. She was airlifted by the Elephants Without Borders’ rescue plane and arrived on-site that same day. Tuli was in critical care but is now integrated into the small herd and full of spunk!
I will be donating a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gifts to Elephants Without Borders. Click here for more information on Elephants Without Borders.
During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed, including 1.5 Million children. In honor of the memory of the children, I decided to donate money to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, in order to participate in their Twinning program, where one adopts a memory of a young Holocaust victim. My twin, Elianne Wischinsky was born in 1933 and lived in Luxembourg with her parents, Georges and Renee Wischinsky and two older siblings, Norbert and Paulette. Luxembourg was invaded by Nazi Germany on May 10th, 1940. During the first year of the Nazi occupation the Germans introduced the Nuremberg Race Laws in Luxembourg, which were a series of racist and antisemitic laws stripping Jewish people of their rights. In October of 1941, the Wischinsky family was part of the first Nazi deportation to take place from Luxembourg. Elianne was just 8 years old when she and her family were loaded onto a cattle train from Troisvierges and sent to the Lodz ghetto in Poland. The conditions in the Lodz ghetto were horrific and many Jews died of starvation and disease. Elianne was only ten when she died. I am doing this twinning program to honor her because she was never able to become a bat mitzvah.
Elianne Wischinsky’s cousin, Eliane Caye, submitted this information on the Wischinsky's pages of testimony to Yad Vashem.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who helped to make this special day complete. Thank you to Rabbi Kosak for your insightful guidance and support. Thank you to Deb Freedberg, Bat Mitzvah tutor extraordinaire and kind friend, for her expert skills at teaching trope and prayers not only to Eliana but also to Hannah, Rachel and Jennifer over the last 8 years! And thank you to Cantor Bitton for helping to put all the special finishing touches on Eliana’s preparation for today and to all of Eliana’s religious schoolteachers over the years.
We would also like to thank all of our virtual guests who are chiming in from all over the country, including Florida, Oklahoma, California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico and, of course, here in Portland, Oregon! We are also so grateful for the love and support from our local friends, and so proud of how our community has come together particularly during these unprecedented times. So many of you have helped to shape Eliana in ways both big and small into the special young adult she is today, and we are so appreciative to have you share in this joyous occasion.