When Ilan Wright spoke to the Buckhannon Rotary Club on Tuesday, he told them that a bar mitzvah isn't just a coming-of-age ceremony for those who practice Judaism.
He said a bar mitzvah is a "son of the commandment," a person. Jewish women become "daughters of the commandment," or bat mitzvahs. The ceremony commemorates the coming of age, but isn't required, Wright said. When a Jewish child turns 13, he or she automatically becomes a bar or bat mitzvah. Wright said he will become a bar mitzvah on Aug. 10.
Becoming a bar mitzvah also means that Wright will observe the religious commandments. He will be committing to a lifelong obligation to study Judaism. To prepare for his bar mitzvah, Wright was expected to learn how to read Hebrew. He will read Hebrew passages from the Torah, a holy scroll that is part of the Jewish Bible. He recited the Hebrew alphabet for the audience.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Buckhannon Rotary hears from Ilan Wright, an Upshur County boy who is preparing for his Jewish bar mitzvah in August.
"You do have to learn to read Hebrew," Wright said. "You don't exactly have to understand everything it's saying."
Wright's mother, Daya Wright, who also is a Rotarian, said she has higher expectations of her son because she can speak fluent Hebrew and lived in Israel for a few years. She said that Ilan Wright can read, rather than memorize, the passages he will be reciting at his bar mitzvah.
Ilan Wright showed the club his yamaka, a cap worn by Jewish men during worship. He also showed them how Jewish men wear a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl.
According to information given to Rotary members, the bar mitzvah ceremony may have started in Europe between 1300 and 1500. A Jewish child would not be taught about Judaism until he was 13 years of age or "adult enough" to keep it a secret because the Jewish people were persecuted.
Ilan Wright said he thought it was "cool" to practice Judaism. He said he gets to take time off from school for religious holidays and events in addition to the days already adopted as school holidays.
In the upcoming school year, Wright will attend Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School as an eighth-grader.
In other matters, the Buckhannon Rotary Club presented checks to $1,000 to Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School to help fund a school field trip. Four students, along with Vickie Sharp of the advanced studies program, accepted the check.
The Upshur County Library will be able to replace or update its juvenile nonfiction selection, thanks to a $1,500 check from the Rotary, which was accepted by the library's assistant director, Ryan Clouston.
Lee Dixon, representing Habitat for Humanity, accepted $4,000 from the club to help with building projects.
Rotarian Marty Kelley said that $10,000 was being set aside for a Rotary International project in Haiti. The funds will be combined with a district grant.