Bar Mitzvah Ceremonies in Haiti

Religious history was made in the island of Haiti in July, For the first time in the annals of that Caribbean island a rabbi officiated at two Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. Veteran residents vaguely recall that sometime in the past a Bar Mitzvah took place, but without an ordained clergyman. But last month Rabbi Samuel Silver of Temple Sinai, Stamford, Conn, conducted two separate worship services. At each of them a youngster participated in the service and received a blessing from the officiant.

The first Bar Mitzvah was for David Fleischmann, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Fleischmann originally from Germany. Since fleeing Hitler, the Fleischmanns have resided in Puerto Rico, the Virgin islands and the Dominican Republic. The second 13-year-old to be Bar’Mitzvahed was Richard Salzmann, son of Mr, and Mrs. Otto Salzmann. The Bar Mitzvah’s father, who came to Port au Prince from Vienna several decades ago, is a prominent businessman and is a cousin of Rabbi Silver. Attending both events was the Israeli Ambassador to Haiti, Zeev Bashan. The entire Embassy staff was also on hand.

With about 20 Jewish families residing in Haiti there is no Jewish congregation and no regular worship services. Rabbi Silver sent the youngsters their assigned readings in writing and on tape. The boys were tutored by Samuel Cohen, a former Israeli who now resides in Haiti.

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