Monday, June 23, 2008


どモ アれガト の スんゆう まで ヷたシの バら ミツヴャ( domo aregato no sannyuu made watashino bara mitsuva )
ברוכים הבאים לבר מצוה שלי.
In other words...thank you all for coming to my bar mitzvah.

You may have noticed by now that I'm interested in Japanese culture. I even wanted to wear a kimono while leining but for some reason my parents weren't into it.

I see symbols of Japan everywhere I look. Perhaps it was meant to be that my middle name is Shachar, or dawn, which commemorates how I was born at dawn, and is also reminiscent of Japan, the land of the rising sun.

You may not realize it but there are many things that Japanese and the Jews have in common. For one, they both have a feline national symbol. We of course have the Lion of Judah which adorns our own ark and stained glass windows here at Ramath Orah as well as many arks in other synagogues.

The Japanese have the monokie niko, the lucky cat, symbolizing wealth, happiness, prosperity and business. Japan and Israel comprise the bookend borders of the Asian continent, with Israel at the southwesternmost point in Asia, and Japan to the Northeast.

But perhaps most fundamentally, the value of honor, or kavod, that is so deeply ingrained in both value systems. This value is expressed in both cultures through the custom of removing one's shoes before entering certain areas.

Take my parsha (Torah portion) for example. I started out the parsha reading about Aharon lighting the menora. Try to visualize how glorious he looked while performing this service in the Temple. He was adorned with eight different kinds of the fanciest clothes, including a robe, an apron, a tunic, and a big fluffy hat. These clothes were quite colorful, with royal blue, bright red, and pure white. Every part of him was up and covered. Every part that is, except for his feet.

You would think Hashem (G-d) would have commanded the Kohen Gadol (high priest) to wear shoes of the fanciest kind, in fitting with the rest of his outfit.

But we know from elsewhere in Tanakh that G-d considered it more respectful to remove one's shoes in his presence. When Moshe was at the burning bush he was ordered to do so, as was Joshua in the presence of the angel. Indeed, the rabbis tell us that every Jew was commanded to remove their shoes before entering the Temple mount. The Talmud learns this requirement from the verse in Isaiah, where the prophet scolds the Jewish people, quoting G-d Himself as saying "Who asked this of you that you trample my courtyard?"

Why, you may ask, did G-d find it disrespectful to wear shoes in His presence?

I think we can learn the answer from our Japanese friends. From what I've read in manga, the reason the Japanese insist on shoe removal upon entering a home is because keeping your shoes on shows you're in a hurry to leave, just as keeping your coat on is rude even in our culture. Taking these things off shows kavod, respect, in that you're telling your host "I like it here in your home and I want to stay a while" I think G-d is telling us the same through the prophet Isaiah. Since the Temple Mount is where His presence, or shekhina, rests, the Mount is His home, so to speak. In hebrew we call it "Har Habayit", literally the mountain of G-d's house. Not surprisingly, G-d found it rude to appear as if you were in a rush to leave His home.

So we see there are some shared values between us and our far eastern friends. What accounts for this? If we assume that all spiritual truth originated with Abraham, how did some of this truth find its way to the far east? One theory is based on the narrative found in Genesis 25.

There, it tells us something that is not so well known: that Abraham took another wife named Ketura after Sarah had died, and they had six sons. We don't hear anything about these sons at all except the fact that Abraham "gave them gifts, and sent them eastward to the land of the east", or in Hebrew, he sent them "kedma el eretz kedem. "The rabbis tell us that the Torah does not waste words, so why does it repeat like this, "eastward to the east"?

One interpretation is that Abraham sent them literally to the FAR east, and that the "gifts" he gave them were the spiritual gifts of kaballah.

And so the Zohar says these children carried the spiritual spark of Abraham with them even though they would later forget where this spark came from. Avraham was told by G-d that he would be a "father of many nations" (Av hamon goyim), and we can see that his spiritual legacy lives on in many peoples. This idea, that everyone shares spiritual bonds in common, is a value me and my family have always stressed.

To that end, for my bar mitzvah chesed project, we have chosen to get involved with the Judah Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. Judah Touro's distinction, other than having a great first name, was that he embodied a love of his own Jewish people as well as an awareness of the bond of brotherhood shared by all peoples. He was the son of Isaac Touro, founder of the Touro synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.

Judah went to New Orleans to make his fortune, and his name is still well known there to this day. He founded the first public library there, as well as the Touro Infirmary, which today is the only hospital in New orleans which accepts patients without health insurance. Their work has been vital following Hurricane Katrina, and they have treated many of its poorest victims who could not otherwise afford care. He also gave to almost every synagogue in America, and gave money to the settlement of Yemin Moshe, the first modern Jewish settlement in Jerusalem outside the old city walls.

A portion of the proceeds from my bar mitzvah gifts will go the the Touro Infirmary. Judah Touro was both a proud Jew and a proud American. He showed that a person can be engaged with different cultures and be passionate about all of them.

I hope to continue to embody this value in my own life, as I continue to explore Japanese, American, and of course my own Jewish heritage.

UPDATE TO VISITORS: Within the next week, Judah will be making a donation to the Touro Infirmary. We hope to be able to reach the level of giving where we will become a Fellow in the Judah Touro Society! More info will be posted on the Touro Infirmary shortly!


It is one week after the fact and we are still flying high on the memories of Judah's wonderful, weekend-long bar mitzvah.

Simply put, it was magnificent.

He layned (read Torah) like an angel.

He played cello like a virtuoso.

He gave his Bar Mitzvah speech with panache and charm.

He wowed us.

He made us proud beyond belief.

We had a great time.

He had a great time.

In the days to come, we will be posting:

  • Pictures
  • A slide show with music from his pre-Shabbat cello concert
  • His bar mitzvah's speech
  • Update on Judah's donation to the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans
  • Other mementos

To our friends and family who celebrated with us, thank you so much for surrounding us with warmth and love.

To the visitors of this blog, I hope that you have enjoyed it and I welcome your comments and questions.

To Judah, my youngest child, may you grow from strength to strength.

May you always look back at your bar mitzvah with joy and amazement at your extraordinary accomplishment.

May the memory of this beautiful time in your life and the life of our family always be with you, illuminating the way during times of darkness.

May you feel secure in the love of your family, friends and community; may you feel enveloped by the benevolence of God and the universe.

May the sweetness that you have as a young boy stay with you throughout your life.

May you have the privilege of sharing the gifts you have been given.

May you know that you are loved deeply now and forever.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Yesterday morning, Judah was called to the Torah at SAR Academy, his fantastic school (see photo on right) and tonight is his Bar Mitzvah!

Which explains why, at 5:30, I was jolted out of sleep by a sense of urgency. In 12 and a half hours, Judah's Bar Mitzvah Concert will begin! Guests will be filling the sanctuary of Ramath Orah, the waitstaff will be preparing the dinner downstairs, friends and family will be milling about, signing Judah's welcome poster (an oversize picture of young Judah holding a very new Alfie the Pomeranian), greeting each other, grabbing a snack and a much-needed bottle of water.

I have tried to avoid checking the weather forecast but even at this hour, it is clear that the weekend is going to be warm.

Okay, possibly scorching.

At this hour, with only me awake, I take inventory of the Bar Mitzvah paraphernalia, making mental notes about where everything is to be delivered. There are bags and boxes of beautifully wrapped candy to throw at Judah in shul after he finishes his Torah reading, there are personalized kippot, benchers for Friday night and Shabbat, there are special Japanese fans for our guests tonight, there are scores of water bottles for our guests, there are welcome bags and host gifts to deliver, snacks and food, banners and posters, booklets, programs and baskets and placecards that need to be printed.

Yikes! How can anyone sleep when there is so much still to be done!

Heroically, Judah has decided to go to school today so that he can take his Chumash test. I am impressed. How can he be so cool???

I will be signing off shortly, to start writing the D'var Torah I will be delivering tonight, but wanted to write briefly about Judah's Chesed Project, which entails raising money for the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, which was founded by Judah Touro in 1854 and is the only hospital in the devastated region that cares for patients who have no health insurance.

Our goal is to raise at least $1,000 for the hospital, which will enable us to reach the level of Fellow in the Judah Touro Society. We also hope to inspire our guests to give generously to this remarkable institution that has operated for over 150 years, serving the people of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the Touro Infirmary's work was vital and it remains so today.

Below, you will find Judah's history report for Mrs. Hasson's class on Judah Touro. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read about this remarkable American Jewish character whose philantropy was legendary and who has become our new role model for Tzedaka. Judah Touro gave to Jewish and non-Jewish causes in America AND in then-Palestine. He helped to create Yemin Moshe, the gorgeous community in Jerusalem; his money created New Orleans's first public library and enabled the local Jewish community to thrive. He gave money to nearly every synagogue in America. He funded orphanages and remembered the synagogue in Newport, RI, where his father Isaac had served as hazzan.

The list of the recipients of his tzedaka goes on for pages.

As Judah (Goldman) points out, when Judah Touro died, his will was called The Will of the Century.

By choosing the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans as Judah's Chesed Project, we also hope to bring awareness of the remarkable character of Judah Touro. Visionary, bold, generous and broad-minded, he is truly one of the great Jewish Americans. As Judah writes in his report, though shy and quiet in life, Judah Touro's causes live on well beyond his death.

It is now 6:30 am. Less than 12 hours until the Bar Mitzvah begins!

Soon the family will be awake and the day will begin.

From here, it is a straight path to the Bar Mitzvah. My heart is filled with pride.

Mazel Tov, Judah!!!

Shehechiyanu, ve'kiyimanu, v'higianu lazeman hazeh!!!!

By Judah S. Goldman
May 15, 2008


Before I turn this report over to Mr. Touro, I would just like to say that Judah Touro is the man whom history has seriously forgotten.

Have you ever heard of him? No? Don’t feel bad! Until this history report came along, I hadn’t either!

In fact, when you are researching the Touro family, every single other member – Isaac, Abraham, Moses…even Reyna – will be mentioned way before anything about Judah Touro appears. Or type “Touro” into Google and you will find plenty about the famous synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island – the first one in America – and maybe information about Touro College long before you will hear about any of the important and amazing projects that Judah Touro launched.

And what amazing projects they were! But don’t take my word for it. Read my report and meet the incredible man whom history forgot.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Judah Touro.

Hello. As I’m sure you know my name is Judah Touro. I was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1775, the son of Isaac Touro, a famous hazzan of the Yeshuat Israel Synagogue and Reyna Hays, whose father was Judah Hays.

Our synagogue is now known as the Touro Synagogue and we are proud that it is the first Jewish house of worship in America. We are also proud to be Sephardim, Jews of Spanish and Portuguese background. Our family whispers that our ancestors were Marranos, secret Jews who were driven from their homeland to Amsterdam, where they could live more freely. My great-grandfather was Jeudah and I am his namesake. My Grandpa Abraham was a Parnas or president of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. My father, Isaac, was also a Parnas.

Isaac Touro was invited by Aaron Lopez to come and be the minister of the Jewish community of Newport, RI. Not wanting to leave his family behind, he decided to start a life in America. He became a hazzan.

Although it might sound like my life was great, I had a very difficult childhood. First, the Revolutionary War broke out, which destroyed the financial security we had and was especially bad for the Jewish community of Newport which had nearly 1200 people at that time. Though most Jews fled the city during the war, my dad stayed to guard the synagogue, especially the Torah Scrolls, because it was being used as a hospital by the British.

Because my dad was a Tory, we moved to New York City with the British before we went to Kingston, Jamaica. That’s when things got really sad. My father died when I was 9 years old. My mom moved from Jamaica to the house of her wealthy brother – Moses Michael Hays – in Boston with me and my siblings.

We had three nice years and then, tragedy struck again. My mom died when I was 12, just before my bar mitzvah.

My uncle Moses was a famous businessman and very well-respected. He was also proud of being Sephardic and kept our customs alive. At a time when Jews were not always appreciated as they are in your day and age, the Hays house was known as a place of cultured, good people who always welcomed strangers, including the poor.

The biggest influence on me was my uncle Moses. I spent most of my teenage years in his house. I had a cousin with my name, Judah Hays, and he was a good role model for me, following his father’s advice on how to be a good person, a good Jew and a good American.

My uncle Moses trained me to be a merchant. On my first voyage, my ship was attacked by a French boat but I landed it safely and my uncle was impressed. He kept sending me on more and more dangerous voyages. I got sick of this life, so in 1801, I moved from Boston to New Orleans, which was a great investment idea. The city grew in business and proportion, bringing lots of good fortune.

New Orleans was indeed a good city for me. Thomas Jefferson predicted that it would be a great American city. But the beginning was rough for me. First of all, I was robbed of all my money; second of all, the ship ride was so rough that I never took another boat ride again.

My first step was to open up a consignment store. It was an instant success. Of course, I worked hard. I was the first to open in the morning and the last to close in the evening. Also, I was good at saving money. Later, I told my friend Rabbi Isaac Lesser that I had “saved a fortune by strict economy while others had spent one by their liberal expenditures.”

I invested in steamships and other boats. I bought and sold real estate and lots of it. I was careful about my investments, though and never panicked as others did during bad economic times.

I had a good life with few close friends. Every now and then I thought about my childhood and felt sad, missing my mother and my father and my uncle Moses and my cousins. I remembered our Shabbat dinners and my mother’s kosher food. Here, in New Orleans, there were Jews but it was nothing like the busy Jewish community of Newport.

New Orleans was the center of business, it seemed. The cotton trade, the sugar trade and the tobacco trade all flourished here. Also, it was a fun city, the Las Vegas of the 18th century. My ships carried “cotton, sugar, corn, potatoes, pork, hides, salt, ice, crackers, Scotch shirtings, and even leopard skins.”

In 1815, I served as a civilian volunteer for the American Army during the Battle of New Orleans. In war, I suffered greatly and if not for the courage of my fearless friend – Rezin Shepherd, a merchant from Virginia, I would have been lost (I rewarded him for this kindness later in life). I had been hit in the thigh with a twelve pound shot and was in pain for months afterwards. My wound was so ghastly that people nearly fainted when they saw it.

Though I survived, my injuries made it impossible for me to have kids. After I recovered, my business continued and was honored as a patriot. I was so proud to be an American that when I heard that the Bunker Hill Monument was neglected and needed to be renovated, I immediately donated $10,000 after Daniel Webster wrote about it. The other $10,000 was donated by Amos Laurence of Boston. The poet Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem about us, which appears at Faneuil Hall. The lines read:

Amos and Judah – venerated names,
Patriarch and prophet press their equal claims,
Like generous coursers running neck to neck,
Each aids the work by giving it a check,
Christian and Jew, they carry out one plan,
For of different faith, each is in heart,
A man.

This poem can be seen by people visiting Boston today.

I decided not to wait to be mega-rich before becoming a philanthropist. In addition to my uncle, my brother Abraham had set a good example for me. When he died in 1822, he left money to many causes, including the synagogue and Jewish community of Newport, the Jewish cemetery, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in New York, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Female Asylum, the Humane Society and many other causes….including me.

My brother left me $100,000 when he died but I didn’t touch a penny of it. When my sister Rebecca died, I got another $80,000. This was my tzedakah money. I decided to put the money to the purpose of tikkun olam – making the world a better place.

Although it is considered unusual, I gave to Jewish and non-Jewish charities, local and far away. Here are some of them:

$600,000 to Rezin Shepherd for saving my life
$108,000 to congregations and societies in New Orleans (including Nefutzot Yehudah, a new synagogue built in a church) and to found the Touro Infirmary, which is still around today
$10,000 to keep up the synagogue and cemetery in Newport
$60,000 to poor people in Israel
$143,000 to schools, congregations and other Jewish causes in seventeen cities
$153,000 to the same in New Orleans

I also founded the first public library in New Orleans, gave money to the Society for the Relief of Orphans, St. Armas’s Asylum for Relief of Destitute Females and Children; St. Mary’s Catholic Boys Asylum; The Fireman’s Charitable Association; the Seaman’s Home and on and on.

Apparently, I am the man who gave the most money to the most causes -- Jewish as well as non-Jewish -- in American history. Historians called my will, “the will of the century.”

Throughout my life, I was very shy and quiet. I died in 1854 but my causes still live on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

48 Hours

It is just after midnight on Wednesday, which means that it is suddenly Thursday.

In less than 48 hours, Judah's bar mitzvah will begin!

So much to report, but first, the useful information for our guests.

Be prepared for heat. For those unaccustomed to (premature) summer in the city, a few words of advice:

  • Dress lightly
  • Carry water at all times
  • Plan to be indoors as much as possible
We will be supplying water bottles through the weekend. Think of your upcoming Shabbat in Manhattan as akin to that trip you took during college to the Negev. Remember how the tour guide kept telling you to drink? Well, we will be doing the same. not get all ungapotched! Really, this is Morningside Heights, not the Upper East Side. The attire for the Bar Mitzvah is relaxed. Yes, Judah will wear a suit during the synagogue service but do not be surprised if you see him in shorts, a tee and crocs later in the day. We strongly encourage guests to bring comfortable, more casual attire for Shabbat afternoon.

Regarding staying indoors, we have arranged to make the Journalism School building available for our out-of-town guests throughout Saturday. After our luncheon, you are free to stay, socialize or read inside the World Room on the 3rd floor. Therein, you will find snacks, drinks, games, newspapers, magazines and....other guests!!!

Of course, if you are undaunted by the heat, please take the opportunity to enjoy a walk through Riverside Park, Central Park, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine or the sprawling Columbia campus itself.

For those who arrive on Friday at 6 pm, in time for Judah's cello recital, a light reception will be served. Following Kabbalat Shabbat, dinner will take place in the social hall for the out of town guests.

And for Shabbat, don't worry that the hospitality will begin only after lunch. Please check out our breakfast buffet at Ramath Orah on Shabbat morning (in the social hall; available between 8:45 and 10:15) and come back for Seudat Shlisheet in the same place at 7 pm.

For those who live outside of Manhattan, we know that the city is sometimes a confusing place. To reduce the chances of getting lost, those guests who will be bunking down with us for the weekend, whether in hotel rooms or guest rooms or with families, will receive a welcome packet when they arrive that will contain a map and a schedule and snacks.

IMPORTANT: All boys who are staying in apartments or with families should arrange to meet us at Ramath Orah on Friday afternoon, between 5 and 5:15, at which point they will be escorted to their host homes by family members. The boys -- as well as the girls who are staying with a classmate and everyone else -- should return to the synagogue by 6 pm for the concert.

All guests at Union Theological can check in independently. Welcome bags will be waiting, marked with guests' names, at the facility.

All guests at Kings Crown must let us know the time of your arrival and we will arrange to have a student meet you on 116th Street and escort you to your room. Please let us you if you will be arriving AFTER 7 pm. We might need you to meet us at Ramath Orah with your key.

All guests at East Campus will be met by Carey King IF they are arriving between 4:30 and 5:45. Carey and a student will meet you at our place on W116th Street and then escort you to your room. Guests who arrive AFTER 5:45 will be told to contact another student who will be stationed on W116th Street.

Check in tomorrow for last-minute information. Also, you will find really cool info about Judah Touro, the role model for Judah Goldman's chesed project.

Our house is filled with all kinds of fun stuff, waiting to be unleashed at the bar mitzvah. What do I mean? Special personalized Japanese fans, custom-made chopsticks, beautifully-wrapped candy that gets thrown on Saturday, benchers...and other fun stuff!

We literally cannot WAIT for the fun to begin in less than 48 hours!

Judah's MOM Shira

Monday, May 12, 2008


With the invitations having gone out last week, we're getting excited phone calls and e-mails, RSVPs and questions about accommodations.

For all of our out-of-town guests who need help finding a place to stay, PLEASE shoot us an e-mail over to with your query and phone number OR call us at 212.749.1677. Generally, we'll be able to talk after 7:30 pm until 11:00 pm.

We've got lists of inexpensive hotels in the area, guest rooms and home hospitality options.

Most importantly, we want you to share Judah's Bar Mitzvah with us and stand ready to help you find accommodations.

Don't hesitate! Call or email today!!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


We're trying not to panic, but it is six weeks and one day until Judah's Bar Mitzvah on June 13-15, 2008!!!

The invitations are being printed and should be mailed out next week.
So, we thought we'd bring you up to date about the latest plans, some of which have changed since my initial posting. Please refer to the last post (just beneath this one) to get the basic info.
But first, check out the picture of Judah and Ari trying on his new tefillin this past week in Jerusalem. The experience was moving and momentous and helped prepare us psychologically and spiritually for the upcoming Bar Mitzvah.
We also stopped at Machane Yehuda and bought kilos of kosher gummy bears, whales, sharks, teeth, worms and other weirdness that you will be able to throw at Judah after he finishes his torah portion in shul on Shabbat...and eat!
Please note that there are two changes to note in the plans. The Friday night cello concert will begin at 6:00 pm at Ramath Orah, with Kabbalat Shabbat services beginning at 7.

Change number two involves the Shabbat afternoon luncheon, which will now take place on the Columbia University campus at the Graduate School of Journalism, just inside the gate at Broadway, between 116th and 115th Street.
We anticipate that lunch will begin around 12:30 pm, if you are unable to attend the morning services.We are in the midst of matching up out-of-town guests with hotels, guest rooms and home hospitality.
Please let us know if you are not yet taken care of.
Also, if you are local to the Morningside Heights neighborhood and can host guests, let us know ASAP.
We will love you forever!
We are arranging a breakfast for our out-of-town guests at Ramath Orah, between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Shabbat so don't worry about sitting through services with a grumbly tummy.
Do not hesitate to be in touch with us by email at the special address we have set up: If you have my cellphone number, please call me, if you prefer that mode of communication.
We look forward to seeing you at Judah's Bar Mitzvah!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Friends, family members and fans of Judah Samuel Goldman,

Please save June 13, 14 (and 15 if you are a kid) 2008 for Judah's Bar Mitzvah in New York. A Save the Date will be going out in the mail shortly but we just couldn't wait to get you this information. Please check this blog frequently as we will post valuable info such as:

  • The schedule (hey, it's already here! scroll down!!)

  • Accomodations

  • Travel directions

  • Special stuff for kids

  • Background on Congregation Ramath Orah, the host synagogue

  • If-I-Can't-Make-the-Whole-Shebang-What-Should-I-Absolutely-Not-Miss?

  • Tips on what to wear (basically, anything you like, but we can also give guidelines)

  • Cool things to do Saturday afternoon on the Upper West Side

  • Judah's Bar Mitzvah themes. Meaningful ones! Like, from his Torah portion!

  • Judah's pre-Shabbat cello concert

  • Judah's Bar Mitzvah chesed project (akin to community service)

  • Recommended reading on the Jewish ritual of Bar Mitzvah

The basic weekend schedule, just so you know, is this:

Friday, June 13th: 5:30 - Reception at Congregation Ramath Orah, The Historic Luxembourg Synagogue, 550 W110th St

6:00 -- Cello concert and program

7:00 -- Candlelighting/Kabbalat Shabbat Service

8:00 -- Dinner for out-of-town guests and Judah's friends

Saturday, June 14th: 9:00 -- Shabbat Morning Services (Back at Ramath Orah)

10:00 (approx) -- Torah reading, starring Judah

10:45 (approx) -- Judah's Dvar Torah (Bar Mitzvah talk)

11:00 (approx) -- Musaf service

Noon -- Festive Bar Mitzvah Lunch and Celebration

Afternoon: Free time. Walk to Riverside Park, Central Park, Columbia U. Campus, etc...

7:00 -- Mincha (afternoon service) Back at Ramath Orah
7:30 -- Seudat Shlisheet (Third Meal)
8:30ish -- Maariv (evening service)

9:10 -- Havdalah service

Sunday, June 15th: Trip to Rosmarins, Monroe, NY for Judah's friends. Buses leave NYC at 9:30 am (subject to change)

ALSO... a special email address has been set up for you, our honored guests, to correspond with us on Bar Mitzvah-related stuff, especially relating to accomodations. We are reserving guest rooms at the various universities and seminaries in the area, have solicited home hospitality and can recommend local hotels as well.

Please correspond with us at

Welcome to Judah's Bar Mitzvah! The Blog! We look forward to being in touch and having you be part of our son's celebration!

Shira and Ari