Central to the work of the Masorti Movement in Israel is a belief in B’tselem Elohim (creation in God’s image) and K’vod Habriot (dignity of all beings). Nothing represents this passionate principle more than the Masorti programs to ensure that all Jews can be included in the Jewish rite of passage of Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
Read on below for the words of Karen Halfon — mother of the Bar Mitzva boy Avi — who spoke on behalf of all the parents at the Bar/Bat-Mitzvah ceremony of Aviv, Zohar, Dorit, Avi, Yair, Or and Nitai. All of these kids are on the autism spectrum and are students from the Orim school in Beersheba.
“There are Rabbis who explain that children who were born with autism are the pure and elevated souls of the righteous who have descended from heaven to redeem the world, and therefore they should be accorded special respect.
In the same breath, however, for some, conservatism and extremism have driven them to extreme religious fanaticism that prevents these children from realizing their religious identity.
No one has a monopoly on the Jewish religion. As part of the requirement to perfect the world that the Holy One Blessed Be He has given to us, we must rectify injustices and promote adherence to a religion whose foundations are integrity, justice and law, and whose values are those of the Book of Life.
We should invite additional members to join us beneath the wings of the Divine Presence and we should enrich our world through empathy and the acceptance of others – thus promoting the repair of our society as a whole.
Rabbi Kook said: “The purely righteous do not complain of evil but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance but increase wisdom.”
I thank all the pure tzaddikim (righteous men and women) who labored all year long to bring us to this exciting moment. They enabled our children to take part in a value- laden ancient tradition and to be accepted as part of the Jewish People, in a Bar Mitzvah ceremony – the initiation ceremony of the Jewish people for generations. In this ceremony, a boy becomes an adult man, taking upon himself to be faithful to Judaism and God’s commandments, and accepting responsibility for the continuity of Jewish faith and its transmission from generation to generation. For this is the secret of the Jewish People, the People of Israel’s existence.
And as for you, our dear children –: today you become adults.
Jewish tradition explains that maturity consists of responsibility, you must take responsibility for your words and deeds, because they have the power to influence and change the world. That is the meaning of the expression “bar mitzvah”: you are commanded to repair the world, it is not a choice but rather an obligation.
There is nothing that stands in the way of will and faith. When a person really wants something, the gates of Heaven open and the whole universe comes to his aid to fulfill his dream and destiny.
To the educational staff and volunteers, with your help — and with the goal of advancing our children through education, inclusion, empowerment and encouragement to aspire the highest one possibly can — I believe that our children will develop and take part in an egalitarian society as those who are different among others who are different and even to be among the society’s leaders.”
The moving ceremony was held in the Eshel Avraham congregation in Beersheba and was led by Rabbi Yerach B. Meiersdorf and by Michal Katoshewski, teacher from the Bar-Bat Mitzvah program for children with special needs.
The Masorti Foundation and Movement wishes a Yasher Koach and Mazal Tov to the Bnai Mitzvah and their families.