Rabbi Apologizes To Dancing Bar Mitzvah Boy
08/20/13
Editor & Publisher
Photo Galleria: 

Rabbi David Wolpe has made a public apology to Sam Horowitz of Dallas, the bar mitzvah boy whose lavish party and professionally choreographed celebratory dance has gone viral on the Internet via a YouTube video. 

The extravaganza, which has garnered more than 430,000 play views, was praised as “a great event” by the hosts of “Good Morning America,” when young Sam did an encore performance with six showgirls on the streets of Time Square recently.

But Rabbi Wolpe, spiritual leader of Los Angeles' Temple Sinai, called the video “egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful,” so offensive he didn’t know where to begin in describing the act of “turning a ceremony of spiritual maturation into a Vegas showgirl parade.”

Now he's softened his stance in an opinion piece on the Washington Post's website, writing that colleagues have taken him to task for "appearing to insult a child and those who love him. I am truly sorry for that."

Wolpe restated the thrust of his position, however, decrying the practice of combining a holy rite of passage with "a party that is thoroughly inappropriate: pricey and even lewd. If we cannot feel -- deeply feel -- the disconnect, then something is broken in our Jewish souls.

The now-famous clip shows young Sam's entrance to his initiation ceremony, which took place at the Omni Hotel in Dallas and was originally posted on YouTube last November.

 

 

 

 

In the video, Sam makes his entrance by slowly descending in a giant chandelier on an elaborate stage with his name ablaze in 20-foot-high neon lights in the background. There he is greeted by a bevy of eight sexy female dancers, and together they all bust their moves to Jennifer Lopez's "Dance Again."

All in good taste, apparently, to the large and appreciative audience.

At his Broadway encore, dressed in a sparkly white outfit, Sam described his “dream come true,” and his mom, Elaine, spoke of how proud she was of him.

Perhaps to offset the criticism of those like Rabbi Wolpe, the Horowitz family let it be known this week that in lieu of gifts, they asked their invited guests to support a Jewish Agency youth village near Hadera in Israel.

According to the Jewish Agency, the family and guests raised $36,000 this summer for the Ben Yakir Youth Village, a residential education facility for boys, ages 12 to 18, most of whom are from Ethiopia, with severe emotional, behavioral and family problems.

No information was available on the cost of Sam’s bar mitzvah.

JTA and Helen Chernikoff contributed to this report.

gary@jewishweek.org
 

Last Update:

08/26/2013 - 23:21

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

I extend my sincere Mazal Tov wishes to my namesake. May you grow up to be a credit to the Jewish people. - Mayer Horowitz, Bostoner Rebbe

"The pot calling the kettle black"!

Oh please as if HIS congregants don't have the same shmaltzy shtick! I guess it is safer to condemn those who you don't have to answer to. This stuff as been going on for decades. Why pretend that this widespread ostentation is new or rare? Wolpe is the last to preach about licentious behavior given the congregations new move to the direction they have chosen. Sam you should have told this guy to mind his own business and use the money for college. It was your simcha. I wish you could have enjoyed it more. You will be the real loser on the day you take a vote and feel you need to get the permission of others to live your life!

Regardless of the good deeds Sam's family does and how sweet a boy Sam is, there is something unsettling about the celebration of someone 's becoming a bar mitzvah, responsible for following the mitzvot, both the positive and negative with actions that are the complete opposite of the command in the Torah of "Kedoshim tiyhu".

Do you feel that the charity they give is sufficient a bribe to excuse such a display? It seems that there was complete failure of his religious education if this how he chose to mark becoming a Bar Mitzvah

Larry, count me among those who were disgusted by the story. I honestly do not understand why Rabbi Wolpe is apologizing for telling the truth. Even if everything that you wrote is true, it does not take away from the sheer gaudiness of the party and how contrary is it to everything Jewish. Isaac, Rebekah and Samuel would have been mortified by Sam's spectacle. The sad thing is that all the money that was spent on the Bar Mitzvah party could have done a lot of good to improve other people's lives, people who are less fortunate than Sam's family. The $36,000 donation is nice but it is chump change compared to what was spent on the party. And what has Sam learned from all this? That expressing himself, no matter how inappropriately, trumps everything else, including the Jewish values that his family allegedly seeks to maintain.

I know that some people found this delightful and inspiring, others were disgusted, and most ignored it.

I wish your story, though I realize space is limited, included the following:

(1) Sam Horowitz has wanted to dance at his Bar Mitzvah celebration for half a dozen years to express his joy and himself
(2) Sam Horowitz studied and led congregational services; this party was not the centerpiece of his becoming a bar mitzvah
(3) I have seen videos of Sam Horowitz participating in and leading charity projects over the past few years
(4) His extended families have donated MILLIONS... i am talking TENS OF MILLIONS to Texas synagogues, JCC, UT-Hillel, Denver Jewish hospital, Dalls Chidren's hospital and more.
(5) He had the lead in the Summer Jcc musical production. He is involved in dancing and acting and expresss himself through this art
(6) His parshat was Toldot. What pundits have failed to realize is that the dance is a storah-telling of the parshat and Malachi based Haftorah. The dancing reflects the lack of joy or Isaac and Rebekah on their decades w/o a child. Then descending from the heavens (ceiling) is a womb of two (Yakov and Esau), who emerge as one (Samuel, playing the merged Jacob and Esau). He dances in joy as peace comes to the land in the merging of two peoples as one. At the end of the dance (the one shown in the video), Sam points his finger three times as the guests, obviously telling them that they must do more for peace in our lifetimes (see the final sentence of Malachi)

Thanks

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.