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Catholic Father Bar-Mitzvah`s Jewish Son
by Rabbi Shmuel Reich - Shliach in Clearwater, Flordi
This story begins in the summer of 2009. One of the local conservative synagogues held a Judaica art show before the high holidays which was more a local community meet and greet . We went as a family to this event as a way to show our support for the local Jewish community and obviously to meet the local community and introduce ourselves the local Jews.

At one point I noticed a man who was dressed like a biker and clearly not Jewish approach the rabbi of the conservative synagogue which was hosting the event and introduce himself. He told the Rabbi that his wife was a nurse at one of the local Hospitals, she was Jewish, and she passed away from cancer at the young age of 40 just 2 years prior. On her deathbed she made him make a vow that he would Bar Mitzvah their only son who at the time of her passing was 7 years old. He explained that for many years he had a very successful career as an auto mechanic, however after his wife passed away he was left with taking care of his son full time, he was no longer able to hold a regular full time job and therefore needed the synagogue`s help to fulfill his deceased wife's wishes.

I overheard this entire conversation standing a few feet away and I knew that the Rabbi would in fact not help this man Bar Mitzvah his Jewish son. As soon as they were done their conversation, I quietly approached the man and introduced myself, gave him my business card and told him that I would help him in every way possible to Bar-Mitzvah his son at no cost. We spoke for a couple of minutes and I also got his info. His name was Thomas, in his 50`s, a native Floridian, born and raised catholic.

I called him several times and even invited him and his son to our annual community Seder but nothing materialized and over the years I forgot about them.

Before Pesach I reminded myself of Thomas and his son Adam and I told myself that I must call them since the boy should be 13 by now and he certainly never had his Bar-Mitzvah done. The only little problem was that I had his number in one of my pocket calendars from the year of 2009 and since moved during this time it would be very difficult to find. During Pesach I thought about Thomas and his son a few times and every time I would tell myself I will look for that pocket calendar later, but that later never came since I was so busy with Pesach.

A few weeks after Pesach I get a call from an Israeli good friend. He had me on speaker phone and he was speaking in a broken English which was unusual since he always spoke to me in hebrew, "Rabbi can you make a Bar-Mitzvah for a 13 year old boy who had problems with another synagogue?" the moment he said that he had problems with the other synagogue I knew right away that it was money related, I answered "of course. I will make his Bar-Mitzvah for free!" and he says "You see, I told you my Rabbi would do it for free".

The Israeli friend gave the guy my number and he called me up a few days later, and sure enough it was none other than Thomas himself almost four years later. We spoke for half an hour about how G-d brought us together the first time and how G-d amazingly brought us together again, and we caught up on old times.

The miracle here was that the Israeli guy left his previous job just a few weeks earlier and had just gotten this new job where Thomas happens to work part time...

He told me that Adam ended up going to that synagogue for about 2 years, then a half a year before he turned thirteen they basically told him good bye due to a lack of money so he never had a chance to have his Bar-Mitzvah. Adam turned thirteen in January of 2013, he is a star baseball player in one of the local leagues; he is in the boy scouts, volunteers at a homeless shelter and has a very good chance of going far with his baseball talent. Thomas said "The Jewish people need a good baseball payer! It would be great for the Jewish people and the Jewish religion to have a good baseball player. I don’t know why that synagogue wouldn't Bar-Mitzvah my son!"

I invited Thomas to come with his son Adam at his first convenience to Bar-Mitzvah Adam. However due to his many jobs and his Adam`s busy schedule he can only come Wednesday afternoon at 6pm. I said sure, no problem, in the summer months the sun only sets at 8pm so we have enough time to wrap the Tefillin and Bar-Mitzvah Adam.

They came to our home that Wednesday evening and I put on Tefillin with Adam for the very first time in his life. I danced with Adam and Thomas together with my kids, and my son took out his little broken guitar and started playing and singing songs for them. We had some guests over since we have our weekly Challah baking every Wednesday night, so everybody congratulated Adam, it was very moving.

I showed them the interior of the Tefillin and explained to them the meaning of the Mitzvah of Tefillin and its great holiness for which we wait until a child is 13 years of age to wrap the Tefillin and this is actually the reason we celebrate the Bar-Mitzvah altogether.

I told Adam that his mother is very proud of him and is smiling down at him from heaven for fulfilling her last wish before she passed away that he have a Bar-Mitzvah and be raised as a Jew.

The final part of this amazing story is that since -bhashgachah pratis- this year Shavuos was on Wednesday andThursday, Thomas was able to bring his son over for "Aseres Hadibros" which I scheduled for late afternoon so that Thomas can bring his son Adam to be called up to the Torah (since Wednesday late afternoon is the only day he can come) and sure enough they came and we called up Adam to the Torah for the first Aliyah.

In essence all of the above is just the beginning since Thomas committed himself to raise his son Adam as a complete Jew and we started learning Hebrew together every week. All that is left is to buy him a pair of Tefillin.

Due to various reasons this story was not published until now. Howeve, anyone who would like to donate a pair of Tefillin (even used) please contact Rabbi Shmuel Reich at clearwaterjew@gmail.com

 

 


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