Brianna Richardson: the bat mitzvah baker
By Deb Silverthorn
Seventy-six years to the day that Barbara and Moshe Krause, of blessed memory, were liberated from Nazi-occupied Czestochowa, Poland, their great-granddaughter Brianna Michelle Richardson turned 13.
To mark the occasion of her bat mitzvah this Saturday, Brianna baked and delivered nearly 300 chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cupcakes to sell throughout the community. She earned $2,140, which she donated to the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
“My parasha teaches about the consequences that Pharaoh had and how we should be more selfless than selfish,” said Brianna of her Torah portion, Bo. “As a bat mitzvah I will take on more mitzvot not because I ‘have to,’ but because I’m becoming closer in my connection to God.”
Brianna is the sister of Mika, daughter of Brandon and Melissa and granddaughter of Glenn and Sylvia Rabin and Bonnie and Keith Richardson. Brianna’s maternal grandparents live next door to the teen and it is her maternal grandmother’s family line that sparked her desire to support education about the Holocaust.
“My parents, who lived hard lives for many of their years, were phenomenal yet they never stopped being positive,” said Rabin. Her mother Barbara was a nurse, her father Moshe an accountant. After their liberation, the couple moved to Palestine, where Moshe fought in Israel’s War of Independence. “Brianna’s beautiful heart, and this project, which is an example of her strength and character, shows what one person can do.”
“My father always said they survived due to hope and purpose,” said Rabin, who donated many of her parents’ artifacts to the Houston Holocaust Museum, where she served as a docent for 15 years. Her plans to join the DHHRM docent class last year were delayed due to the pandemic but she hopes to someday follow through. “I’m proud of Brianna for keeping their legacy alive.”
A summer 2019 trip to Israel with her parents, sister, Safti Sylvia and Pappy Glenn afforded Brianna the chance to see where her grandmother lived as a child and to meet friends and family.
“When we got to the Kotel, it was real,” said Brianna, a seventh grader at Levine Academy. “It was exciting to be where I’ve always learned about.”
Brianna, who trains as a gymnast at Flip Factory, is a member of volleyball teams at both Levine Academy and Pure Athlete, and has volunteered for years with her family, friends and classmates. With her volunteer activities on hiatus during the pandemic, Brianna designed her own mitzvah project.
Having spent time in the kitchen, baking with her father, since she was a young child, Brianna chose to put her hands to use at home to earn money for the cause she holds dear. She worked with her friend Shira Rahamim to create a logo and worked with her family on packaging the baked goods and providing porch-side deliveries for the project.
“Bri is a kind friend, a caring and very connected child, and we’re very proud,” said her mom, Melissa Richardson. “She has always been interested in the history of her family and now, as she becomes a bat mitzvah, it’s incredible that she makes her own mark.”
Rabbi Stefan Weinberg of Congregation Anshai Torah will officiate at Brianna’s bat mitzvah. “Brianna’s beautiful smile is a testament to her family’s ability to overcome the pain and horror associated with the Shoah. Not everyone is able to embrace the world, with its wonder and beauty, after surviving the trauma that defined Nazi Germany. Brianna has accepted the challenge to never forget the atrocities of World War II and I know the museum will use her gift wisely to educate thousands of children and adults.”
On Jan. 12, Brianna was invited to meet DHHRM President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins, to present her donation in person.
“It means so much to have the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, whose survival helped ensure the continuance of Judaism, honor their legacy by supporting the museum and our mission,” said Higgins. “It was a delight to meet Brianna and to hear about how hard she worked to help us teach the history of the Holocaust to combat prejudice, hatred and indifference. We’re so grateful for her critical support!”
Brianna presented her check under the signage reading “Up-stand-er (n): stands up for other people and their rights, combats injustice, inequality or unfairness, sees something wrong and works to make it right.” These are words that define the mission of those who care, words that define this young lady determined to share.