As our readers know, we have many Mitzvah Project profile stories archived on our Website. These stories bring inspiration to other families and additional exposure for the organizations that benefit.
We complete these stories by sending questions to the child and getting back answers in their own words.
This story is a bit different because the answers are from a Mom. David Rosenvinge has special needs and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at 19 years old. We spoke with his Mom Mary and learned about this touching story that we would like to share:
MM: Tell us about your son David.
MR: When my son David was 13 he was in residential treatment 3 hours away from home, and frequently hospitalized for very severe mental illness issues. Although I always arranged for him to study with a local Rabbi wherever he was, he was in no way able to handle the stress of any preparation for a Bar Mitzvah. We were just happy when he was well enough to come home on weekends.
MM: Did he understand that he was Jewish?
MR: David did form a close and important relationship to his Jewishness. Once, during an especially difficult and lengthy hospitalization when he was only 9 years old, (5 months inpatient at Schneider Children’s Hospital at LIJ) he told me that he was getting angry with God because he was praying to get well, but God wasn’t listening. I explained that if I prayed for a new car, I probably wouldn’t wake up to find it in the driveway the next morning – that isn’t how God works. The truth was that I was angry too, but the explanation soothed him and he continued to find comfort with his God.
MM: How did the idea for a Bar Mitzvah come about?
MR: When David was 18 he told me that he thought he would like to become Bar Mitzvah. I said “sure”, and paid no more attention because David says lots of things. A month later he brought it up again. This time I listened, visited our clergy with him and we planned a schedule for lessons with our Cantor on the alternating weekends when David came home. He loved the process and usually prepared for his next lesson. Naturally everything was modified to suit his abilities and disabilities, but the essentials were all included.
MM: Tell us about the picture above.
MR: That is a picture of our family just before the Bar Mitzvah began. We held the service in a small room with only about 18 people present (including Rabbi and Cantor) on a Saturday afternoon when the morning crowd had left the building. All of this (including each guest) was of David’s choosing so that he would be comfortable, casual and successful. David is to the far left in the picture.
MM: How did David do?
MR: There was not a dry eye in the room. It was a very special event for us all, especially my little boy – well, not exactly little as you can see. He is 19 years old and 6’8″ tall. Afterward, everyone came to our house where Chef Lance had prepared a wonderful array of treats for a late lunch in our backyard.
MM: Tell us about the gift David’s sister Erica made for him?
MR: My daughter Erica is an artist and her gift to him was a beautiful Yad that she made for him from various materials.
MM: Tell us about David’s Mitzvah Project.
MR: I’ve been working with HIHI (Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative) for years. David collected nearly 300 pairs of new mens socks for this organization which shelters and feeds about 30 homeless people each night from December to March who would be otherwise sleeping outdoors.
MM: This sounds like a terrific Mitzvah Project for other families. Are they still receiving donations?
MG: I would be happy to receive the socks if a child wants to do this project. I work with this group every Wednesday night through Thursday mornings in the winter so I can channel them to the people that need the socks. There are also other items needed and if someone is interested, I could provide a list. Please contact me at 631-754-8065.
We thank Mary for sharing her son’s story and Mitzvah Project with our readers.