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Beijing Bar Mitzvah

His voice had the slightest rasp to it, but that was probably from cheering on Team USA during the athletics competition at the Bird’s Nest the previous night. Isaac Shapiro did a remarkable job with his maftir and haftarah portion during his “American bar mitzvah in Beijing” on Saturday, Aug. 16. His family also sponsored the lunch afterwards at Dini’s Kosher Restaurant, complete with groups of five Olympic ring-colored cupcakes (arranged just so, three on top of two) and a Bird’s Nest miniature cake.

Saturday night, after conquering the bimah, Isaac went to what was for him the highlight sporting event of his trip: back-to-back basketball. First China beat Germany in a heart-poundingly close match led by Yao Ming, and then the United States trounced Spain in what was supposed to be a fairly close match. Isaac even learned the ubiquitous Chinese cheer “Let’s Go!” “JIA YOU!”

From the bimah to the basketball game.

From the bimah to the basketball game.

His family says despite attending team and individual gymnastics competitions, tennis, handball and basketball events among others, this was surely the highlight of their trip to China.

“Everyone has their bar mitzvah photos taken by the Wall,” dad Sam said, referring to the Kotel in Jerusalem. “But instead we took photos by the Great Wall.” Isaac’s mom, Marjie, who arranged the whole trip, added that “Israel certainly has a big role in our life, and I go there at least once a year. But this trip can show our kids the rising superpower of the future, and show them that there is community everywhere.”