A star is born — at his bedazzling bar mitzvah?
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For some boys reaching the age of bar mitzvah, donning a prayer shawl and reading from the Torah is exciting enough. But Sam Horowitz knew he wanted more.
The Dallas teen is the star of a bar mitzvah video that went viral, earning Horowitz a guest appearance in August on “Good Morning America” and more than 945,000 views (and counting) on YouTube, even though his bar mitzvah happened last October.
In the video of his bar mitzvah celebration, Horowitz is wearing a sparkly white suit as he descends from the ceiling inside a massive chandelier, landing onstage in the lavish ballroom of the Omni Hotel in Dallas.
The bedazzling entrance required no small amount of engineering. A stuntman descended in the chandelier with him — a requirement of the production company, his mother said. The surrounding dancers, expressing their passionate bar mitzvah joy in flapper-style minidresses, were local talent, including cheerleaders for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
“Sam wants to be famous in the entertainment industry,” his mother said. “He loves to sing and dance. He’s a really passionate kid.”
Sam already has an agent and has appeared in several commercials, as well as on TV’s “Barney & Friends.” On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he strutted his stuff on the street outside the studio. “It’s like a dream,” Sam told anchor Josh Elliott.
Not everyone is so starry-eyed, though. Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles named Horowitz as Exhibit A in his brief against over-the-top bar mitzvahs that rob the rite of passage of its spiritual significance.
Writing on the website of the Washington Post, Wolpe described an “egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful video that … slaughters the spirit.
“To turn a ceremony of spiritual maturation into a Vegas showgirl parade teaches a child sexualization of spirit,” Wolpe wrote. “Apparently nothing in our society militates against the narcissistic display of short skirted dancers ushering an adolescent into unearned stardom. If it is fetching, it is worthy.”
A few days later, on the same website, he recanted slightly, admitting he’d penned the column “at white heat.” Nonethe-less, he reiterated that “modesty, humility and gratitude are Jewish values too little in evidence in many of our celebrations and synagogues,” and, in the High Holy Days season, called on the community to “look at what we are teaching our children” and try to do better.
In the Forward, Debra Nussbaum Cohen took a slightly softer tone.
“Now the kid is, admittedly, adorable. No question about that,” she wrote. “But a bar or bat mitzvah celebration of this obvious expense and over-the-topness certainly proves the adage that money doesn’t buy taste. And it certainly doesn’t demonstrate good sense.”
Horowitz, though, was not without his defenders. Also writing in the Forward, Eliyahu Federman conceded that the celebration might not be all that the rabbinic sages had in mind, but it was better than nothing.
“We should be commending this young man for celebrating his religious right-of-passage, not condemning,” Federman wrote. “Many Jews don’t even celebrate their bar mitzvah. It is better to have a bar mitzvah, even with an over-the-top ostentatious celebration, then no bar mitzvah at all.”
Whatever your perspective, Horowitz has shown that he hasn’t totally given over his bar mitzvah to celebrations of excess. Horowitz asked guests at the celebration to make a contribution to the Ben Yakir Youth Village in lieu of gifts, and is requesting that those who watch the performance online do the same, the Forward reported.
Approximately $36,000 has been donated to the Israeli youth village, which is home 120 teenage boys, mostly Ethiopian immigrants.
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