Like many Jewish moms, Jody Barrens Moran fretted about her son’s bar mitzvah.
But Barrens Moran didn’t just worry whether her son would have a good time, or whether the caterer would be any good. She worried about whether he could have a bar mitzvah at all.
Max, 13, is nonverbal and can’t walk without assistance. While he has significant developmental delays, doctors haven’t been able to diagnose why.
However, Barrens Moran was determined to do something meaningful for his big day. And she did: According to Jewish Journal, in February, the family had a nontraditional ceremony at Temple Emanuel, a Reform synagogue in Beverly Hills, California.
Barrens Moran read from the Torah, instead of Max; a cousin held the Torah on Max’s behalf.
Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and Cantor Lizzie Weiss led the ceremony, and Weiss wrote a personalized tallit blessing called, “We Wrap You in Love,” with lines like: “With each glance into your eyes we see your soul /And we see our Blessing.”
Instead of the traditional bar mitzvah gifts, Barrens Moran asked the 150 guests to make donations to Max’s third-party special needs trust, which allows Max to receive the treatments he needs, like physical therapy and special education.
Barrens Moran hopes she will one day be able to create a place “for Max and for other children like Max [where they can] live in a loving environment. There will be about four or five kids at a time, and I’ll hire all the staff and the therapists.”
Hopefully, the success of Max’s bar mitzvah will encourage other parents of kids with disabilities to continue to find ways to encourage their full participation in milestone events. Mazel tov, Max!