Unusual Pidyon HaBen


Regarding “New Grandchild, Ancient Ritual” (Editor’s column, March 2) your readers will be interested in learning about an “historic” Pidyon HaBen which took place recently. Eleven new immigrant students from Russia — all first-born sons — were “redeemed” in a moving Pidyon HaBen ceremony held at Boys Town Jerusalem.

The age-old, symbolic redemption of the first-born, which usually takes place when a child is one month old, may be carried out from age 13 for an individual who was not redeemed as a baby. Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, guided the Boys Town students through the ritual in their new homeland, in a gala celebration joined by members of the school’s Israeli students and faculty alike.

The 11 first-borns are among 48 students from across Russia who are living and studying in Boys Town Jerusalem’s Russian-language “OhrDessa” program. Most of the students, ages 14-17, have left their parents and families to come to Israel on their own. The majority of the young men come from single-parent homes plagued by serious social and financial woes. Each has begun his journey at Boys Town to discover his Jewish heritage — while studying an intensive academic high school curriculum as well.

Executive Vice President Boys Town Jerusalem Foundation of America