Joining in Celebration of our Nephew Zachary Weiner’s Bar Mitzvah—a Jewish Rite of Passage

“Few of us go through life without taking part in some kind of rite of passage.”—Hank Nuwer

Zachary is the proud son of Cecile’s younger brother Mark and his wife Barbara Weiner. The weekend celebration began with a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner hosted by Barbara's uncle Stuart & aunt Susie in a private room at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in Skokie, IL on Friday evening. Many of our friends in California are familiar with this authentic family style restaurant at Santana Row in San Jose. However, the concept restaurant was founded in the Greater Chicago Area in 1991 by “Rich Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You." 

Zachary’s Bar Mitzvah took place yesterday morning at Congregation Bene Shalom which was founded in 1972. The synagogue welcomes Jews of all denominations, interfaith couples and the hearing impaired. The senior Rabbi officiating the service was Dr. Douglas Goldhamer. He is also President and Professor of Mysticism at Hebrew Seminary which he founded. For the past 45 years he has been the only full-time rabbi serving the deaf Jewish community in the United States. He is known for using healing prayer based on the great Kabbalistic thinkers.

The late mythologist, Joseph Campbell calls a Bar Mitzvah a “right of passage,” to help young boys move to the next phase of their lives with self-awareness and confidence. The words Bar Mitzvah means “son of the commandment.” According to Jewish law, a boy becomes an adult male around the age of 13. The history of the Bar Mitzvah dates back to the fifth-century in which the father recites a blessing thanking God for freeing him from responsibility for the deeds of his son who is now accountable for his own actions. 

Young boys like Zachary spend months of preparation studying the importance of observing the precepts to help deepen their understanding of what it means to be Jewish. Upon becoming a Bar Mitzvah, it is customary to read from the Torah (what Christianity calls the Old Testament) or other sacred Hebrew texts and describe what it means to them. Zachary chose a reading having to do with social justice and advocating for people in need or wrongly accused. 

One of the most impressive parts of the religious ceremony was when Zachary—who wore the prayer shawl that was handed down from his great grandfather—used “sign language" while reading Hebrew from the Torah. Zachary’s reading was virtually flawless. As Rabbi Goldhamer said rather "tongue in cheek," Zachary you didn’t do a good job, you did a great job.”

The religious ceremony was followed by a celebratory dinner, DJ led entertainment, activities for the kids and dancing in the alumni hall of Northeastern Illinois University where Zachary’s dad Mark serves as the Director of Dining.

Dear Zachary, your aunt Cecile and I want to congratulate you on a job well done. We are very proud of your achievements and the kind, bright young man you have become. You can be rest assured there will be other momentous milestones on your life’s path. We join your proud and loving parents, your beloved sister Ilana and extended family in wishing you a bright future. Enjoy the ride and take the time to experience and enjoy the fullness of life along the way! Mazel Tov!