A team of Orthodox Bar Mitzva guides is the centerpiece of a privately funded outreach program aimed at encouraging secular Jews to visit the Kotel.
Ron Lubash co-founder of the Markstone Capital Group and Ned Siegel a Florida real estate developer helped finance the program, employing 20 "Kotel Stewards" who help boys who turned 13 put on phylacteries, make a blessing over the Torah and pray.
"Ours is a generation that is out of touch with their Jewish heritage," said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Kotel.
"We want to overcome the psychological and spiritual barrier preventing secular Jews both in Israel and abroad from celebrating their Bar Mitzva at the Kotel." Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball coach Pini Gershon, a Chabad supporter, will feature prominently in an ad campaign to publicize the Bar Mitzva program.
Rabinowitz said the ceremonies would be strictly Orthodox. Girls interested in celebrating a Bat Mitzva could do so in the Kotel Tunnel, not in the courtyard.