Disabled Bar-mitzvah Boy Finally Gets to Celebrate at Conservative Synagogue

Ultra-Orthodox mayor of Rehovot prevented special ceremony for disabled children to be held in Conservative synagogue three months ago.

Yossi Eliassy

Three months after the ultra-Orthodox mayor of the Rehovot prevented a special bar-mitzvah ceremony for disabled children from being held in a Conservative synagogue, one family in town undertook their own act of defiance: This week, they held their own private celebration for their son at the same congregation that was boycotted.

He was one of four children who was to have participated in late April in a joint ceremony organized by the Conservative movement at Congregation Adat Shalom-Emanuel in the central Israeli city. They were all graduates of a special bar- and bat-mitzvah training program for disabled children that the Conservative movement has been running in Israel for the past 20 years.

Rehovot Mayor Rahamim Malul insisted that the ceremony be moved to an Orthodox synagogue, but the Conservative movement refused. An attempt to hold the ceremony at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence also fell through, after the Conservative movement was notified that its rabbi, who had trained the children, would not be able to officiate there.

“And despite it all, and after quote unquote slight delays – which were of course not our fault – we have been able to celebrate in this moving and impressive ceremony for our beloved son,” said the child’s mother, after he concluded the Torah reading service.

Yossi Eliassy