A Unique Triple Bar Mitzvah Ceremony for a Long Islander

A vice president of a Long Island Reform synagogue confirmed today that a son of a congregational family is celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in three countries over a period of three months, an event which a national Reform rabbinical official said he believed was “virtually unique” in American Jewish history.

Burt Wagner, vice president for ritual at Temple B’nai Israel in Elmont, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in a telephone interview, that Matthew Kopp had observed his Bar Mitzvah at the Harel synagogue in Jerusalem last Saturday, would observe it again on August 4 at a synagogue in Cordoba, Spain, and complete the triple Bar Mitzvah rite at Temple B’nai Israel on September 22.

Rabbi Elliot Stevens, administrative secretary of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Association of Reform rabbis, told the JTA that it was “an absolute certainty” that such a triple ceremony was unique.

The Cordoba synagogue Kopp will enter is 669 years old. The thousands of Jews of Cordoba, birthplace of Maimonides, were expelled during the Inquisition on orders of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that all Jews leave Spain in 1492.

The American Jewish Committee said only a few hundred of the 12,000 Jews now living in Spain are residents of Cordoba. The three-tiered Cordoba synagogue is now a national monument, located in the ancient Jewish quarter of Juderia.

‘THIS WILL BE HISTORY’

Rabbi Samuel Kehati, rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel, who is officiating at all three ceremonies and who made the arrangements for the Cordoba rite, said of the Cordoba Bar Mitzvah, “This will be history.”

The idea of a Bar Mitzvah in Cordoba occurred to Kehati last year on a tour of Spain which included a visit to the Cordoba synagogue. Since the Cordoba synagogue is now a national monument, Kehati made his request to the Spanish government which gave it prompt approval.

When Kehati returned to Elmont, he asked Kopp’s mother and father, Steven and Maxine Kopp, if they would agree to their son’s being Bar Mitzvah at the Cordoba synagogue. Matthew was the only choice because, in their small congregation, he was the only one at the right age. The parents agreed with enthusiasm.

Kehati had been scheduled to lead a synagogue tour to Israel and Spain this summer. He and the Kopp parents attended the ceremony at the Jerusalem synagogue. The other members of the tour will meet in Cordoba to participate in the Bar Mitzvah rite there.

FIRST BAR MITZVAH IN CORDOBA SINCE 1492

Kehati said he was told by Spanish officials that Kopp’s Bar Mitzvah rite would be the first in the Cordoba synagogue since at least 1492. Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, the AJCommittee’s director of international affairs who was formerly the AJC’s director of interreligious affairs, said, referring to the fact that Kehati will perform the ceremony, that “it would not be inconceivable in a community with such a small Jewish population that it would not have a rabbi to perform a Bar Mitzvah.”

Matthew Kopp’s father said, “They say they have the record of the last Bar Mitzvah in 1480 or 1490- something. And now comes my son, Matthew.”

Wagner, who left yesterday for Spain to complete arrangements for the Cordoba event, said he had no idea how many Cordoba Jews were members of the congregation, noting that there would be enough synagogue tour participants to provide the required minyan.

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