The sobering figures on intermarriage in Israel, released in recent weeks, are causing many to lose sleep. However, Yad L’Achim, which runs a special branch to deal with these cases, has a story that offers a ray of hope.
The story involves a Jewish woman who met a Turkish man abroad and married him. They had a son together and moved to Israel, where they eventually divorced. Since the husband was already living in Israel, the court granted joint custody despite the fact that he was violent and dangerous, and put obstacles in the way of the boy getting a Jewish education. The father brainwashed his son against Judaism and Jews, and vetoed plans to give him a Bar Mitzvah.
The Turkish father insisted that his son was a Muslim and that any Jewish “coming of age” ceremony would harm him. He refused to consider any compromise, flew into a rage and threatened to harm the mother if a Bar Mitzvah was celebrated in shul.
The Jewish mother understood that if she gave in on the Bar Mitzvah, it would be all over for her son: He would grow up a Muslim. With the support of a social worker assigned to her by Yad L’Achim, she stood her ground. She stated unequivocally that bringing her son to the yoke of mitzvot as a Jew was more important to her than life itself, and that the husband’s threats didn’t faze her.
At the same time, a Yad L’Achim mentor who had been assigned to the boy explained to him the importance of a Bar Mitzvah, and prepared him to embark on a life of mitzvot, teaching him how to put on the mehudar pair of tefillin that Yad L’Achim had purchased for him.
All of this had the desired effect, and the Turkish father’s denigrating comments about Judaism and the Bar Mitzvah ended up falling on deaf ears.
At the moving Bar Mitzvah ceremony, held in a local shul with the participation of Yad L’Achim activists, the boy was called to the Torah and recited his blessings with pride and confidence. Family members of the mother and the boy’s classroom friends had no idea of the behind-the-scenes struggles.
“If not for the stubbornness of the mother, a Jewish mother who was willing to give up her life for the Jewish future of her son, the Bar Mitzvah boy wouldn’t have celebrated his big day as a Jew,” said an official from Yad L’Achim. “We will continue to accompany the family as we have till today out of our understanding that it is forbidden to give up on even a single Jew.”