The shofar was blown in one suburban Philadelphia synagogue last Friday night to celebrate an answered prayer – the release by Iran of the two American hikers, one of whom, Josh Fattal, had become a bar mitzvah with the guidance of the shul’s rabbi.
“People were in tears,” recalled Rabbi Elliot Holin, spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park. “It was a highly emotional moment.”
“We had been channeling our hope and prayers for so long,” he said, noting that each week for the past 26 months he had recited their names aloud during the prayer for healing.
“At first we included the names of all three,” Rabbi Holin said, referring to their female companion, Sarah Shourd, who was released last year on $500,000 bail. “Then it was just the two of them.”
Although the Fattal family is not a member of his present congregation – they are not currently affiliated with any synagogue — Rabbi Holin said some of his congregants know the family and that he called them early last year. “I spoke with Josh’s mother,” he said. “She knew me and I said my heart is with you and that in behalf of the synagogue we were extending our support. She was very gracious.”
Although it was “well known” in Elkins Park that the Fattal family is Jewish, according to resident Judy Chant, members of the organized Jewish community said the Fattal family wanted it kept quiet it while their son was held captive in Iran because of that nation’s hostility toward Israel.