Every Bar Mitzvah is special, but Al Greenberg's was special.
As his son Ken said at the ceremony, "Usually at a Bar Mitzvah, we pass our traditions down from the older generation to the younger. But at Gateways Beit T'Shuvah, we do things a little differently." On Sat., Dec. 9, in front of friends, family and the addiction recovery center's residents, 75-year-old Al was called to the Torah.
It started less than a year ago with a bagel delivery. Greenberg had retired from his successful tire business, and he wanted to give back to the community. Through the Marina del Rey B'nai B'rith lodge he had co-founded, he brought a truckload of bagels to the Venice Boulevard addiction recovery center. While there he learned that one of the residents was the son of an old friend. The boy he had once known was now a young man and a recovering addict.
Never a religious person, Greenberg became interested in the work Beit T'Shuvah did, especially the Jewish spiritual component. Rabbi Mark Borovitz, Beit T'Shuvah's spiritual leader, put Greenberg in touch with Mark Rotenberg, an addiction counselor at the facility with an Orthodox background. The two men began studying Torah together. Eight months later, Rotenberg and Rabbi Borowitz stood on the bimah listening to Greenberg's Bar Mitzvah speech.
"I was always proud to be Jewish because of what other Jews had done to make me look good," said Greenberg, who grew up in Los Angeles. "Plus, I met my wife in B'nai B'rith."
Religion never appealed to Al until he found Gateways. "I became an addict to this place," he punned, hugging Rotenberg. "I used to be Jewish in my head. Then I was Jewish in my hands. Now, I'm Jewish in my heart, because of some of these crazy people here."
Last week, Brandon Kaplan cashed in on a family Bar Mitzvah tradition when he brought a baseball worth $1,800 to the Union Bank of California branch in Encino. In 1976, Brandon's father, Jerry, received $1,800 for his Bar Mitzvah from his father, but the check was written on a football. This year, the elder Kaplan continued the theme by writing Brandon's Bar Mitzvah check on a baseball.
"Brandon thought it was a really great idea because he is a big baseball fan," said Jerry Kaplan. "This will be one of the Bar Mitzvah gifts he will never forget."
Bat Mitzvah Class
The photos above show 27 women from Los Angeles and Long Beach in the final stages of preparing for an important milestone in their lives: their Bat Mitzvah ceremony.
Sponsored by Hadassah of Southern California and guided by five able local teachers, the women of diverse ages and backgrounds worked hard to prepare themselves for a special Havdalah service, which was held Saturday, Dec.16, at Adat Ari El in North Hollywood. Co-chairs of the B'not Mitzvah class of 2000 were Bobby Klubeck, Ruth Seeman and Lisa Blank. Rabbi Sally Olins and Cantor Maurice Glick led the service, and Judith Raphael, one of the children saved from the Holocaust by Hadassah's founder, Henrietta Szold, read a commentary on her life and Torah.
The ceremony. which was open to the public, was followed immediately by a kiddush and later by a dinner for invited guests, with entertainment by Cindy Paley.
A new class will be forming soon for the 2001 Bat Mitzvah Program.
For more information, contact Nasrim Rashti at the Hadassah Southern California office: (310) 470-3200.