When your child chooses tradition: Bar & Bat Mitzvah prep programs for the unaffiliated – Hollywood Gazette

Hollywood Gazette

Hollywood Gazette is Hollywood Florida’s only free, community newspaper connecting your community since 2001.

When Sherry and Christian Rauh first broached the topic of Bar Mitzvah with their son Julian, they were thinking out of the box.

The family theyve built together could be considered decidedly unconventional by traditional Jewish standards. Sherry is Jewish but Christian is not. Julian, their son by birth, is Jewish because his mother is, but their eleven-year- old daughter whom they adopted from Kazakhstan at age two was recently given the choice to convert or not to Judaism.

The Rauhs encouraged Julian to approach the expression of this rite of passage with the same freedom and creativity with which they live their lives. They suggested taking a trip or doing something alternative yet meaningful. But Julian knew exactly what he wanted: a traditional Bar Mitzvah.

Preparing your child for this big day is a challenge for any family but for those who are not members of a temple, as the Rauhs can attest, it can loom near impossible.

They explored every obvious option but none felt right. We never found a temple that was a good fit, Sherry says, so they considered private Bar Mitzvah lessons. It was a viable possibility, she recalls, until she stumbled on the question, How were we going to put all the pieces together? In addition to preparing your child to read from the Torah, there were the logistics of the ceremony and a celebration. They concluded this option was not what they were looking for. And then just in the nick of time, the Accelerated Prep Program at Temple Beth El of Hollywood was.

The APP, an inclusive Bar and Bat Mitzvah program for unaffiliated Jews, was an absolute perfect fit for what we needed, effuses Sherry. It gave Julian the opportunity to learn Hebrew in less than a year and have a traditional Bar Mitzvah. Because the Rauhs live near Sawgrass, traveling to Temple Beth El in Hollywood wouldve proven extremely time consuming, especially after school in rush hour. But the APP allows for virtual study and Julian did most of his Bar Mitzvah training with the cantor via Skype. Says his proud mom, I was skeptical the whole time but when he got up there and stood in front of the Torah and started reading At which point her words fall off and her obvious emotion kicks in. It really exceeded our expectations in terms of the whole experience.

For the Rauhs, the takeaway of their APP experience was more than a beautiful service and a great party. It was acceptance as both an unaffiliated and unconventional family by the Jewish community.

I never felt any judgment in terms of the way our family is Jewish, Sherry says. Instead the welcome they received was clearly, Were here for you now, whatever your needs are. Their son Julians takeaway also exceeded their expectations. As Sherry tells it, After the fun party, I asked Julian what was your favorite part? He said, Reading from the Torah because its such an accomplishment, knowing this is something Jews have done throughout millennia. Its important to a persons sense of identity. And clearly its a tradition that lives on as the Jewish community continues to adapt to an ever-changing world.

About Temple Beth El

Founded in Hollywood in 1957,Temple Beth El is a progressive congregation, blending Jewish values, study, social action and traditions into a house of worship, education and community. For more information call 954-920-8225 or visit http://www.templebethelhollywood.org

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Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band to perform at Ryles Jazz Club – Wicked Local Cambridge

Ezekiels Wheels Klezmer Band will perform at 9 p.m. June 2 at Ryles Jazz Club, 212 Hampshire St., Cambridge.

The Boston-based band, which has been performing since 2009, blends original works grounded in the Jewish klezmer tradition with modern interpretations of traditional klezmer music. The band members are Abigale Reisman on the violin, Jonathan Cannon on the violin, Kirsten Lamb on the upright bass, Nat Seelen on the clarinet and Pete Fanelli on the trombone.

The band has been featured on the Boston Jewish Music Festivals compilation album, documentaries in the Netherlands and Brazil and a feature-length film. Their four albums are Ezekiels Wheels EP, Transported, Live in Rockport and Turning Point.

The band won the Boston Jewish Music Festivals Klezmer Idol competition, the International Jewish Music Festivals Audience Choice Award and City Winery Prize for Best Klezmer Band and an Iguana Music Fund grant.

Tickets are $15. For tickets, visit bit.ly/2roshlQ.

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Holocaust Survivor Celebrates Bar Mitzvah – DailyNorthShore – Daily North Shore

Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein, left Harold Katz, and Lila Katz look at the inscription on the crown of the donated Torah at Chabad of Wilmette. PHOTOGRAPHY BY GEORGE PFOERTNER/JWC MEDIA

WILMETTE At 13, Harold Katz became a man in the most devastating way when he and his family were torn from their home in Czechoslovakia.

The Nazis took us away before my Bar Mitzvah in 1941. The police put us in (trains) and took us to Poland, said Katz.

Katz will fulfill his lifelong dream when he celebrates his Bar Mitzvah 76 years later on May 29 at Chabad of Wilmette. The festivities will begin on May 28 with a Torah Dedication Ceremony.

Rabbi Moshe Teldon said Katz commissioned the Torah that hes donating on his 88th birthday.

It takes about 11 months for a scribe to write each letter of over 300,000 letters in a Torah, the rabbi said.

Katzs daughter Lila Katz added, The 613th mitzvah is to write a Torah, which is what Dad is doing.

Katz was one of five brothers and four sisters. He and his older brother Maurie Katz were the only siblings to survive the Holocaust.

After Katz and his family were sent to Poland, his father took him, Maurie Katz, his sister, her baby, and family friends Shari Lansman and her brother Imre across the border to Czechoslovakia while his mother and the rest of the family stayed in Poland.

Along the journey, they saw a tailor and his family, who were the only remaining Jewish family in 1941, in a village in Czechoslovakia, because he made uniforms for the soldiers. Katz said he and his group stayed across the street from the tailor in a synagogue attic. Later the family and friends hid in a lumber truck in search of a safer destination. From there Katz and his older brother met up with Shari Lansmans husband as they traveled to Budapest.

In Budapest, Katz lived with the Lansmans grandparents, and he worked in the grandfathers cap shop with his brother Maurie.

Her family treated me like their own son, he said.

During this time, Katz sent money and packages to help provide food for his family in Poland.

Lila Katz explained that in 1944, Maurie Katz wanted to go home for Passover, and thats when he and the rest of the family were taken to Auschwitz.

Harold Katz and his brother in an early photograph.

When the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944, I decided to get false papers, but I got caught twice andwas sent to a concentration camp outside of Budapest, he said.At the camp, Katz worked for a Jewish barber giving haircuts and shaves to soldiers. He made his escape when he asked if he could unload the trains for the Germans.

He went back to Budapest and found the organization that gave him false papers.

While there, the resourceful 16-year-old brought food for the underground army.

When the Russians liberated Budapest in 1945, Katz said, that he and the other Jews in hiding were in the basement of the building where they lived, because of the bombings.

I told the Russian liberators that I spoke Russian, so I worked with them as an interpreter.

After the liberation, he went back home to see if anyone returned from Auschwitz, and learned that his brother was alive.

In 1947, while he and his brother were in Italy, their aunt and uncle responded to Katzs ad in the paper, and sent them airplane tickets to Chicago.

When he was learning English he met the woman who would become his wife, Judy, an Auschwitz survivor. They married in 1949 and had three children: Jack, Larry and Lila. The Katzs raised their family in Skokie, where he worked as a tailor and later owned Katz Construction Company.

Harold Katz and his wife, Judy, in an early photograph.

Sadly, Judy Katz died from cancer in 2015 after about 65 years of marriage.

The Katzs loved to travel, and one of Lila Katzs most memorable trips with her parents occurred 18 years ago.

I saw my dad reconnect with Shari Lansman, the woman who helped save him in Budapest, said Lila Katz. Before going with Mom and Dad to Budapest and Prague, I dont think we really talked about his experience in the war. I think that our trip was a turning point for Dad that finally enabled him to open up.

He looked at his daughter with loving eyes and said, My daughter is my baby, my right hand, and after my wife passed away she has been helping me.

With Katzs kind disposition and innate goodness, its hard to imagine the atrocities he endured during the Holocaust.

Known for his generosity, below is a small sampling of donations hes made throughout the years:

I wanted to donate a Torah in honor of my parents, my sisters and my brothers, said Katz.

He also funded college educations for each of his eight grandchildren.

Katz said he never lost his faith in Judaism.

No one could give me an answer about what happened. Ill never forget that my father was such a religious man, and Im following in my fathers footsteps, he said.

A devoted family man, Katz is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his third great-grandchild. Katz recently celebrated his 89th birthday, and just passed his drivers test.

He looks forward to the road ahead, with his family by his side.

Harold Katz stands by a glass plaque honoring him and his family for the donation of the exterior stone to Chabad of Wilmette. PHOTOGRAPHY BY GEORGE PFOERTNER/JWC MEDIA

Harold Katz enjoying his grandson Yonis2013 Bar Mitzvah with from left; David Butbul; Lila Katz; Yoni Butbul; and Judy Katz; photo courtesy of Lila Katz

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Jewish trivia quiz: The Kotel | San Diego Jewish World – San Diego Jewish World

Mark D. Zimmerman

MELVILLE, New York President Trump arrived in Israel today and visited the Western Wall. Controversy has swirled around this visit, as Trump was not accompanied by Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu when he visited the Wall. American diplomat David Berns had said to Israeli officials inquiring about the possibility of Bibi joining Trump,What are you talking about? Its none of your business. Its not even part of your responsibility. Its not your territory. Its part of the West Bank. The WesternWall has often been the site of bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, including those of celebrities. Which of the following held their bar or bat mitzvah at the WesternWall?

A. Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera had his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2016, at the age of 42. Lopez-Cantera, whose official bio lists his religion asCatholic, had recently announced that he is in fact Jewish, saying, My father came from Cuba but he married a nice Jewish girl in Miami.

B. In an interview following a sketch he did with Andy Samberg onSaturday Night Live, singer Michael Bolton said, Ive been kicked out of every class. Andy and I weretalking about that. Neither one of us had our Bar Mitzvah because we couldnt take Hebrew school seriously. However, when Bolton, age 62, made a trip to Israel in 2015,he spontaneously decided to make a bar mitzvah at the Wall after meeting Rabbi Shmuli Weiss, who helped Bolton don tefillin for the first time.

C.Singer Paula Abdul held her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2013, at the age of 51. She was wrapped in a tallit, and the ceremony lasted almost three hours, featuring alot of klezmer music. Upon her arrival in Israel for the ceremony, she met with then-President Shimon Peres, who told her he was jealous because hed already had his barmitzvah, but that she had not celebrated her bat mitzvah, so she had something to look forward to.

D.Actor Jeremy Piven celebrated his bar mitzvah when he was 13, though he says he was not a good student. It was hard for me to learn Hebrew. I actually had to rap myhaftorah portion. In 2016, Piven celebrated his second bar mitzvah on a balcony overlooking the Western Wall. After the ceremony he sang Siman tov umazal tov withNBA players Omri Casspi and Amare Stoudemire.

E.Ivanka Trump celebrated her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall at the age of 28, after she converted to Judaism and married Jared Kushner in 2009. After the ceremony, herfather was overheard talking to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is the Rabbi of the Western Wall. Trump reportedly said to the Rabbi, Im gonna be in the market for a bigwall. Your wall is so bigly huge. What do you think? Could we make a deal?

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New album features Asheville’s own Jewish folk music | Mountain … – Mountain Xpress

The Asheville Jewish Folk Music Collection, as the title implies, is a compilation of original and public domain folk songs performed by local Jewish musicians. The first of its kind, this album will be released Sunday, May 21, at New Mountain.

The idea for this project came to Asheville Jewish Community Center music specialist Penny White when she learned of a Making Music Happen grant being awarded by the national JCC association. A lot of communities were going to use the grant to bring in famous Jewish musicians from the outside, White explains. I was like, We have such incredible Jewish musicians here in Asheville. Why dont we make our own music? The Asheville JCC ended up being awarded the grant, and White began to produce the recording last fall.

First, she determined criteria for the music. There are a lot of musicians in Asheville who are Jewish, she says. That doesnt necessarily correlate with Jewish musicians doing Jewish music. What I wanted to do was showcase the diversity of Jewish musicians doing Jewish music in Asheville and also the diversity of the music itself. I wanted it to be fresh and new and not like, Can you play Hava Nagila?

With that vision in mind, I started with people who I know are doing Jewish music, folks at Beth HaTephila, folks at Beth Israel, people at that J[CC], says White. She also received suggestions for people who, at first listen, did not seem to be doing Jewish music. Further exploration led her to decide otherwise: Like Ben Phan, for example. He contributed a song called Worse Than This, and the lyrics are basically, Were OK, weve been through worse than this, and I thought, Is there a more Jewish theme in the universe than that?

The collection has 16 tracks, about half recorded with Josh Blake at Echo Mountain Recording Studio, the other half donated by the artists. One of the donated tracks came from fiddler Natalya Weinstein of Zoe & Clyde. Sheyn Vi Di Levone is a tune she learned from the writings of her grandfather, who was a Jewish musician in Eastern Europe.

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Billy Jonas contributed Modeh Ani, his musical take on a traditional Jewish prayer. Chuck Brodskys Gerta tells the story of a Holocaust survivor. In addition to engineering the album, Blake performs a version of Rivers of Babylon.

Other tracks come from Bandana Klezmer, Seth and Jana Kellam, Cantor Debra Winston, The Goldstein Family Band, and White herself. The first song on the record is called Ki Va Moed, which means the time is now. Recorded over the course of a day, numerous musicians (playfully credited as The Whole Mishpacha) added their voices and/or instruments. Almost all of the musicians who are on the album will be performing at the release party.

Asheville is unique in many ways, and the way that Asheville does Jewish music is unique, too, says White. When you listen to the CD, you can hear the Appalachian influences. There are people now who are doing Jewish bluegrass music, and theyre from Detroit or New York City, and Im like, Weve been doing that for a long time now, we just didnt think to call it anything.

White notes that a benefit of this project is historic preservation. Not only does it document the music, it also includes local Jewish history. Attorney Bob Deutschs song, They Call It the J, tells of the original JCC building, which was built in 1940. How delightful to be able to tell that story in a song and have it alongside all of these up-and-coming Jewish musicians who are going to carry us into the next phase of our history. To have everybody, side by side, telling their part of the story and being able to archive that, says White. I am honestly more excited about that than anything.

When asked the goal of the Asheville Jewish Folk Song Collection, White says, I hope that everyone, whether they are Jewish or not Jewish, practicing or not practicing, will feel like the tent just got a little bit biggerand that everyone is welcome to celebrate under the big tent of Judaism, because it is a big tent.

WHAT: Asheville Jewish Folk Song Collection release party WHERE: New Mountain, 38 N. French Broad Ave., newmountainavl.com WHEN: Sunday, May 21, 3 p.m. Free

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Vanessa Bayer exits Saturday Night Live after seven seasons – EW.com (blog)

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Vanessa Bayer exits Saturday Night Live after seven seasons
EW.com (blog)
Bayer, who recently hit the big screen in Office Christmas Party and Trainwreck, broke out with impersonations of Miley Cyrus and Rachel from Friends, as well as characters including the awkward, endearing, by-the-book Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, child …
Cast Member Vanessa Bayer Leaving 'SNL'U.S. News & World Report
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School refuses pupil time off for batmitzvah – Jewish News

Senna Camp, who has a 99 percent attendance rate, was refused last Friday off school for preparations and to spend time with family members who had flown in ahead of the ceremony on Saturday.

Yet despite the protestations from the girls parents and the leaders of Liberal Judaism, state-funded Wymondham High in Norwich refused to budge, saying that while time off was granted for religious ceremonies, extended leave was not.

In an angry letter, Annie Henriques, chair of Norwich Liberal Jewish Community, told the non-Jewish secondary school it was very, very wrong to refuse Senna time off to prepare, saying it sent a negative message.

The letter, signed by Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich and the shuls Rabbi Leah Jordan, said Senna was a positive young woman who has had a remarkable start to life in a supportive family which values education highly. It adds: Its wrong the school has chosen to take a contradictory attitude to a special event in her life. The schools failure to authorise her absence sends a negative and we believe wrong message to Senna that her absence is not about learning when learning could not have been a more central component.

In response, the schools principal, Jonathan Rockey, said standards must be maintained, adding: Absences for important religious observances are often taken into account but only for the ceremony and travelling time, not extended leave.

Sennas paternal grandparents are devout Christians, while her maternal side are observant Jews, with her maternal gran father having been a professor and well-known activist for human and animal rights.

The shul said Senna and her family have lived all over the world, including Rwanda, with her mother, Nicole Gross-Camp, a senior university researcher and her father, who is a Forest School leader at Robert Kett Primary School.

Describing her daughter as a model student, Gross-Camp this week said the schools stance was unfair, adding that the Friday would have been a chance to do any last-minute preparation, relax and spend time with her family ahead of her batmitzvah, colloquially know as a batty.

She said: Its a very big life event and it is so rare and significant that family are coming over from America, bringing us together for the first time in nine years.

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Why I was circumcised for my barmitzvah – Jewish News

Nathan Cohen faced a profound dilemma ahead of his Jewish coming of age.

The youngster, who attends King David High School in Liverpool, explains: My dad isnt Jewish and my family isnt observant, so I was not circumcised as a baby. Before the big day my mum and I agreed that if I was to have one for my barmitzvah it had to be entirely my own decision. Other people just have it done at eight days old and its forgotten about. I actually chose to do it, so I feel like its more special in that way.

Nathan says he always felt like he was different, especially among his peers at a Jewish school. People would talk about it and I would feel left out, he says. I kept quiet, though, and no one knew I wasnt circumcised. But I had thisuncomfortable feeling that I didnt belong, that I wasnt properly Jewish.

Although he never converted, Nathans father, Anthony, underwent a circumcision in recent years to encourage his son to do the same.

But it was a chance encounter on a plane five years ago with Berish Dresdner, a Belz Chassid from Manchester, that finally convinced Nathan to take his first steps towards having a circumcision.

Dresdner introduced Nathan and his family to the wider Belz community and he began to learn more about the religious significance of having a brit milah. My dad definitely inspired me, but I also learnt so much about Judaism from Berish, he explains.

Nathan with Berish Dresdner

I felt like I owed it to myself and him.

I thought, Its just a simple surgery, I can do this.

Last year, Nathan decided to undergo a circumcision, but the procedure had to be halted when the local anaesthetic failed, leaving him in pain.

He waited another year before attempting a second surgery, performed this time under general anaesthetic.

I went from 100 percent to 65 percent sure, but I told myself I may as well just do it, itll be over and done with. Plus it coincided with my barmitzvah.

Despite overcoming his reservations, Nathan admitted he experienced extreme anxiety before the procedure. Although the surgery went well this time, it was a week before Nathan, a keen swimmer, could even get out of bed.

It was really difficult, he recalls. I started walking and running after two-and-a-half weeks, but only restarted swimming two months later.

He does not regret going through the procedure and advises others in a similar situation to just do it and dont put it off, because its more painful the older you get. He adds: Its definitely worth it, because you become part of the covenant with God. You can literally feel the difference afterwards and not just in a physical way.

Nathan with Rabbi Shlomo Angel

Nathans spiritual journey continued overPassover during a holiday to Salou, Spain, with his family, where the other guests at Hotel Best Negresco found out about his amazing story.

I didnt have a proper barmitzvah, so they decided to throw me a massive celebration. I was just expecting to say a few prayers! he laughs.

Back in Manchester, the Belz Chasidim rallied round the teenager, lavishing gifts, speeches and good wishes upon Nathan, who is now also known as Moshe. It was a bit weird as a non-religious boy to meet the important heads of the community, he admits.

Nathan received shocked reactions from his friends, who were astounded he had never had a brit.

Today he is proud of his decision and since his brit he wears his tzitzit and kippah every day. He is also making efforts to improve his Hebrew reading.

I was disconnected, but now Im reconnected, Nathan says proudly. Im part of the Jew crew.

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Experiencing the horrors of war through music – Canadian Jewish News

A new arrangement of a powerful composition conveying the horrors of war, written by a Toronto musician while he was interned in a displaced persons camp in 1946, will premiere at the Jewish Music Week festival in Toronto.

The original performance of Leo Spellmans Rhapsody 1939-1945 took place in 1947 at Furstenfeldbruck, a displaced persons camp in Germany, and was played by musicians who were interned at the camp.

Born into a musical Jewish family, Spellman was a popular pianist in his hometown of Ostrowiec, Poland. The life of his cousin, Wladyslaw Szpilman, was the subject of Roman Polanskis 2002 film, The Pianist. Spellman survived the Holocaust thanks to a young Pole who loved his music and hid him and his wife, Mary, in a rented apartment for the last 18 months of the war.

The couple immigrated to Canada with their son, Les, in 1948, settling in Toronto, and Spellman founded a dance band that performed at weddings and parties for the next few decades.


In the late 1990s, Henry Baigelman, a violinist who performed the Rhapsody in Furstenfeldbruck, suggested the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., contact Spellman to provide music for a conference called Life Reborn: Jewish Displaced Persons, 1945-51. The institutions musicologist flew to Toronto and found the handwritten music for the Rhapsody in a suitcase in Spellmans garage. The work was performed at the conference in January 2000.

In 2011, Paul Hoffert a musician, composer and a former member of the Canadian rock band Lighthouse created a new arrangement for the Rhapsody. He also added some melodies written by Spellmans great-grandfather, who was a violinist. Hofferts arrangement was performed at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto by a 26-member orchestra in September 2012. It was a standing-room-only event that Spellman, at 99, witnessed. He died shortly after, in December 2012.

Last year, Gary Martin, a musician and composer, re-orchestrated the Rhapsody for a 40-piece concert band. Written in three sections, the Rhapsody opens with the clamour and chaos of war, the second part is sombre, evoking the depths of human suffering, and the final joyful section includes the melody from Hatikvah.

Martin orchestrated and arranged the first part of the Rhapsody with the intent of making the listener somewhat uncomfortable. Its not a comfortable, easy piece at the beginning. Ive tried to put a lot of dissonance in it, to help drive home that this was not our finest hour, he said.

Martin, who isnt Jewish, immersed himself in the literature of the Holocaust while he was working on the new arrangement. The Rhapsody harnesses the emotional appeal of music to convey the horrors of war, he said. I think the power of this music will speak to the inner being. Im hoping people will stop and think about their racist attitudes, and I think this music will maybe give them a second thought.

Both Martin and Hoffert will speak about the Rhapsody when the new arrangement, which is 25 minutes long, premieres at 3 p.m. on May 28 at St. Pauls Basilica (83 Power St.) in Toronto, as part of Jewish Music Week. Admission is free.

Aliza Spiro, the festivals artistic director, said the concert is being presented in a church because the Rhapsody is an important piece of music that should be heard by the greater community. Spiro said shes hoping that anyone who may be hesitant about attending a concert in a church will be able to put those feelings aside and come out to hear the Rhapsody, which she called an important piece of music that crosses all racial and religious boundaries.

The concert is going to be filmed and Martin will upload the video onto YouTube to promote the Rhapsody to other bands. The conductor of the award-winning Japanese Gyosei high school band has already expressed interest in programming the piece.

For information about Jewish Music Week, May 21-28, visit jewishmusicweek.com.

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What happens when a bar/bat mitzvah student can’t ‘perform?’ – Canadian Jewish News (blog)

At a bar or bat mitzvah, the young person is celebrated as he or she chants the Torah and Haftorah, and perhaps delivers a dvar Torah, or leads some portion of the service. But what happens when a child cannot handle the Hebrew? What happens when theres a learning difficulty, a language issue, an attention issue or some other legitimate reason why the young person is unable to perform in the traditionally expected way?

In many congregations, and until recently even my own, we would have the child fake it. In other words, he or she would memorize it. Sometimes, when memorization wasnt possible, a sheet of paper would be discretely slipped over the Torah scroll, so the student could read using Latin characters.

Then, the young person would be lauded for learning to read Torah. And although no one in the congregation would have any idea of what had really transpired, the young person would.

I recently began thinking about this scenario from the childs perspective: how does it feel to be celebrated for doing something that you didnt really do?

Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah means reaching the stage of Jewish adulthood. It means taking on the responsibilities for ones own Jewish choices and assuming a place in the community.


I think that when we have our young students fake it, we are giving them the impression that they are not adequate that their Jewish community wants them to be something they arent. This isnt the message we should send to our young people.

Instead, the message ought to be: Use your strengths. If your strength is grappling with big ideas, share that with the community. If you feel a connection to Judaism through music, art, dance or drama, then share that with us. If you prefer to interpret the Torah and show us how the ideas in there apply to our lives today, then please come and be our teacher. Let us celebrate your strengths.

The definition of a Jewish adult is not one who can memorize the Torah. The definition of a Jewish adult is someone who takes an active role in his or her Judaism, one who lives Torah, teaches it to others, sees it in their daily lives and takes it seriously.

We ought to let our young people demonstrate their Jewish adulthood in their own ways using their own natural abilities so that one day, looking back, they can say with sincerity, I belong in this community. I have something valuable to contribute and my community values me. And then, maybe just maybe they will stay connected to the community and continue to value Jewish education and tradition.

In Exodus 25:1-2, we read, The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved.

God did not specify that each gift needed to be the same. God simply asked for gifts from those who felt moved to give. So why do we, as congregations, ask our young people to give the same things? Why must they chant Torah and Haftorah, if they are not able to? Why not ask the young people to bring their own gifts?

Perhaps a better approach would be to embrace them for who they are and what they have to offer us. We will all be richer for it.

Rabbi Erin Polansky is the rabbi at Neshamah: A New Model for Jewish Community in Vaughan, Ont.

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