On Thursday evening, April 19, at 8:15 p.m., the mitzvah began. The procession started out at the home of Anna and Shimon Kaminetzky on Jody Lane in the North Druid Hills community, wound around the neighborhood, and ended about half a mile away, at their son’s yeshiva, Ohr Yisrael. Thus began the bar mitzvah of their son, Sam — but it wasn’t just any celebration. The Kaminetzky family was donating a Torah to Ohr Yisrael.
The community had been prepared for the event. The police were notified, and they blocked off all of the necessary streets for about two hours, so that about 200 people could celebrate, singing and dancing all the way. The family hired a small band to play, covered the Torah with a tallis chuppah that was held by four men, and lit a dozen-or-so torches to lead the way.
It rained that afternoon, but at 8:15 p.m. the sky was suddenly clear. The day was not quite over, so people could meet and greet each other. Shimon took his son and together they began the march with the Torah, but Shimon wanted to share the simcha with as many of the people in attendance as possible. One after another, he asked men in the crowd to hold the Torah, and I was lucky to be one of them.
At Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael, Shimon told this amazing story: “The Torah was written 50 years ago, and on my last visit to Israel I saw the parchment — it was rolled in three separate pieces, neatly wrapped in garbage bags, sitting on a shelf. It is just a simple Torah. My mind began to wander — all the aliyot that were read, all the times it had been lifted in shul, countless people kissing it with their tallises, little kids being held by their fathers and grandfathers pointing to the Torah, dancing with it on Simchas Torah, and now it had been finally ‘retired’ to rest on a shelf in its old age. I was moved. I was more than moved; I was shaken. Could I simply walk away and let the moment escape? What is my mission? Have I properly transmitted the mesorah [tradition] to my family?”
The procession made for a memorable event for a number of reasons. First, it was a way to teach us all that Judaism was being passed on to a new generation for all to see. Second, it was an open and meaningful way to teach the community the value of keeping the Torah alive, providing the yeshiva with another Torah to be studied again and again. And it was also a way of teaching us all the value of donating to the causes that mean the most to us.
But it was more than that, too. It allowed the community to emerge from their homes and say hello to one another. Having been cooped up for more than a year because of COVID, often being unable to attend synagogue services and mingle afterwards for necessary social interactions, many of the procession participants hadn’t seen each other for a long time. People need to be with one another, and this was such an event. The march was a perfect way of meeting that need.
As night fell, with the almost full moon lighting the way, the march approached the yeshiva. Fifty or so yeshiva boys paraded as a group to welcome the Torah. Holding each other, step by step, singing and dancing, they welcomed the Torah and the procession into their school for a celebration.
Shimon told the audience, “I had the privilege of learning almost the entire seder with my son. For me, the eight-and-a-half-month experience was transformative. I literally watched Sam grow in front of my eyes from a twelve-year-old kid into a young man, finding the concepts and content interesting. His learning just developed beautifully, which provided a glimpse into the future of what he can achieve when he puts his mind to something. Sam recognized that he could dedicate time each day for learning, and it did not compromise his ability to hang out with friends or any other activity. I also learned a lot about how little I know. Sam might say he had a good experience. Selfishly, I think I got more out of it than he did.”
Rabbi Avi Tkatch, the Menahel or supervisor of the yeshiva, said, “It was a fabulous event with really good energy. It was beautiful to see the new students with the older students all together greeting the Sefer Torah.”
Who could believe that such an event could take place in Atlanta? One could imagine it on the streets of Boro Park in Brooklyn or in Jerusalem — but Atlanta? Well, it did happen here, and it was a double mitzvah for the bar mitzvah and for the Torah, but it was really 200 mitzvot, one for each and every one in attendance.
- STYLE Magazine
- Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
- Allen H. Lipis
- Shimon Kaminetzky
- Sam Kaminetzky
- Anna Kaminetzky
- tallit canopy
- North Druid Hills
- Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael
- Simchas Torah
- new generation
- Rabbi Avi Tkatch
- Sefer Torah