Bar Mitzvah

Elidan’s Bar Mitzvah:
A Mixture of Syrian and
Ashkenazi Ritual

When the invitation arrived and
the time stated 6:30, guests did a double take when they noticed the AM rather
than the expected PM. But they’d read correctly and it wasn’t a typo, the
guest bus was scheduled to leave the meeting area in Raanana, to arrive at
the Kotel in time to daven shacharit and to hear kriyat hatorah before
the August sun was overhead.

The bus ride was the beginning of the Jerusalem experience. Elidan’s parents
Evonne and Sam em-ceed the ride as they explained the day’s itinerary, passed
around snacks and played songs about Jerusalem on the audio system. Evonne
is of Ashkenazi decent and was raised in San Francisco, CA, while Sam is
a Syrian Jew; the combination of customs involving bar mitzvah was fascinating.
At a bar mitzvah Syrian men who are close to the bar mitzvah boy each take
a turn wrapping the teffilin around the boy’s arm thereby helping him embark
on this mitzvah and becoming a man. Both parents felt strongly about not
saying the bracha “pitrani”, in fact, Syrian Jews don’t say the bracha
By the time we arrived in Jerusalem everyone was wide-awake and excited to
participate in Elidan’s bar mitzvah.

The kotel was lively and full of b’nai mitzvah and their guests.
From Buchari families dressed in traditional garb and playing instruments
and singing as they marched the bar mitzvah boy up to the kotel, to Yemenite,
Syrian, Moroccan and Ashkenazi families; it was clear that the rite of passage
and being a member of clal yisrael was alive.

After the kotel we re-boarded the bus and headed over to the Dan Pearl for
a festive Seudat Mitzvah. The brunch was delicious, but the remarks
superior as Elidan, his family and rabbis spoke. Each speaker reflected on
a different aspect of the parsha, Elidan and his roots.

Then in the mid-day sun we returned to the Old City, and embarked on a tunnel
tour. We went under the current Old City and learned about how the city was
structured in ancient times. The natural air-conditioning in the tunnels,
made the already fascinating tour quite comfortable for all of the guests.

As a favor, in addition to the great day, the Cohen family gave every family
a gift from Jerusalem, a perfume and candle with the essence of Jerusalem
inside. The essence is made from aromatic essences of plants indigenous to

It was a great day for all on the multi-generational tour. Everyone had a
great time and learned a bit of history too.

Text by Michele Kaplan-Green

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