Israeli mayor stops Bar Mitzvah ceremony for children with autism

Oscr_Rex_-_Bar_MitzwaRehovot, Israel — The mayor of Rehovot, Israel is being accused of imposing his religious beliefs on a special needs school in his municipality after sanctioning a rule on school officials that hinders the staff from pushing through with the school’s Bar Mitzvah ceremony for children with autism.

Mayor Rahamim Malul, who appears to be an Orthodox jew, prohibited staff from the Conservative Judaism Masorti Movement-run Lotem school from taking part in the institution’s annual Bar Mitzvah ceremony during school hours, which practically renders the entire school unable to push through with the ceremony.

According to Lotem school officials, Bar Mitzvah ceremonies have been conducted in the school annually for the past 20 years.

Lotem School is being run by the Masorti Movement, who are Conservative jews, through funding from Rehovot’s local government.

The move by Mayor Malul was apparently in response to a complaint he received from one of the parents of the special needs students, who complained that the ceremony was going to be conducted at a Conservative synagogue, instead of an Orthodox one.

The municipality later on attempted to reach a compromise with the Lotem school officials, asking them to hold the ceremony at an Orthodox synagogue instead, where Adath Shalom Emanuel synagogue Rabbi Mikie Goldstein will not be leading the prayers nor the Bar Mitzvah service— and demanding that some prayers must be excluded from the ceremony.

But Lotem school officials declined to agree on the compromise.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, a parent of one of the children who were supposed to be taking part in the ceremony protested that there was no reason to stop the ceremony:

“It’s unthinkable that in 2015 there can be a fight between Jewish denominations and politicians, and that autistic children are stuck in the middle.”

Meanwhile, Masorti Movement Director Yizhar Hess told that the Mayor is “using children as pawns in a game and holding them hostage in his own political playing field, ” further adding that, “the halachic perspective of the Masorti Movement considers children with disabilities to be part of a minyan and eligible to read from the Torah as are all other children, once they reach the age of mitzvot”

Yizhar Hess voiced that the program has ran for the past 20 years and that thousands of children with disabilities have celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvas.

“But, it is not the children that interest the Mayor. How very sad and how utterly infuriating.”

Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta

Source: Jeremy Sharon on The Jerusalem Post: Rehovot mayor nixes non-Orthodox Bar Mitzva ceremony for autistic children