I'm very proud of you Sam.†
Today you have chosen to take your place as a member of our congregation† -- and as a member of the entire community of Jews.† Today you have read a portion from the Torah for the first time.† And what a portion it is; all about the basic tenets of the Ten Commandments.† Some Three-Thousand Five Hundred years ago, God gave us our fundamental laws. With your Bar Mitzvah you have now joined that unbroken tradition.† Of each generation of Jews passing our religion on to the next.†
While the Jewish religion has these thousands of years of history, it has less than one hundred in Anchorage, which was founded in 1915.† There were Jews in Anchorage in 1915 and your great-grandfather Jake was one of them.† Our Jewish community has come a long way in less than 100 years.† Neither your great-grandfather, Jake, nor your grandfather Barney had a synagogue.† But there has been a synagogue in Anchorage all of your life.† It is not, however, a building that makes a Jewish community; it is the people.† The people who are dedicated to keeping our religion and passing it along to our children.† Today you have committed yourself to keeping our religion and passing it on.
When I was growing up here, we didn't have our own rabbi.† The only rabbi was the one on base who would be "rotated" every few years.† My dad didn't even have that when he was growing up.† My grandfather, your great grandfather, Aaron Werner, a great man, was an orthodox rabbi, and during my Bar Mitzvah studies, came up to prepare me.† He had to do that because we did not have the type of Jewish education that you have had the opportunity to have.† Until this year, you have had the benefit of our terrific former Rabbi, Harry Rosenfeld who has made this an even more special event by coming back with his wife Michelle to officiate.† You have also had the benefit of all our community members who have given so much of themselves to teach you, particularly during our Rabbi Interregnum this last year.† The effort by our congregants to keep things not only going, but moving forward, has been unbelievable.† I am grateful to all of your Sunday School and Hebrew teachers over the years for their efforts on your behalf because they have prepared you well to become a full-fledged member of our congregation.† Special thanks from us for this past year have to go to Michael Frieser for all his help in getting you ready.
My hope for you is that you will continue your Jewish studies.† That you will continue to be involved in the temple and particularly Sunday School, because I know how much you like working with the kids.† After all, this is how we keep our identity as Jews going on into the future.† Your great grandfather Rabbi Werner was part of this tradition and you can do your part to keep it going. †I'm not saying become a rabbi, just continue your Jewish learning and continue being involved in the temple.† Even though she is no longer here with us in the flesh, your grandma Natalie is here in spirit and is very proud of you.† So is your great-grandmother Elsie Werner.† You know that your grandfather Maury Gekler was so looking forward to your Bar Mitzvah -- literally from the day you were born.† And, Iím sure that he, too, is here today in spirit, and is so very proud of you.† As am I.