Hurva bar mitzva 311.
(photo credit: Deborah Kotz)
Thursday was a historic day for the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of
Jerusalem’s Old City: The great-great-grandson of the Hurva’s last rabbi before
its destruction during the War of Independence became a bar mitzva at the
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Joshua Kotz of Silver Spring, Maryland, was called to the
Torah during the Hurva’s morning minyan. His great-great- grandfather was Rabbi
Shlomo David Kahana, who served as rabbi at the Hurva for eight years until it
was blown up by Jordanian soldiers on May 27, 1948.
rededication ceremony was held on March 15, 2010. The following day, Razel Kotz,
Joshua’s grandmother, read a newspaper article about the rededication and told
her husband Shmuel. He died in his sleep from a long illness that
“My husband and I always said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the shul
was reopened in time for the bar mitzva of one of our grandchildren,’” she said.
“He died after he found out about the rededication, but at least he
Kahana led the beit din (rabbinical court) in Warsaw until the
Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, after which he fled. After his
arrival in Palestine, he was appointed rabbi of the Hurva and chief rabbi of the
Old City. Following the Jordanian takeover of the Old City and the Hurva’s
demise, Kahana continued to live in Jerusalem until his death in the early
1950s, but never again served as a pulpit rabbi. His son Shmuel Zanwil Kahana
was director-general of the Ministry of Religion, now the Religious Services
Joshua Kotz’s father, David, was appointed inspector-general of
the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007 and previously served as
inspector-general of the Peace Corps. His mother, Deborah, is a health reporter
at the Boston Globe.
The Hurva was destroyed twice. It was originally
built by followers of Judah Hahassid in 1701, but when they were unable to repay
debts, their creditors burned the shul to the ground 20 years later. The
seven-year construction of the synagogue’s second incarnation was completed in
“I was very happy to have an aliya [Torah reading] in the same shul
where my great-great- grandfather was a rabbi,” said Joshua.
He did not
read from the Torah at the Hurva, but on Shabbat he will read at Jerusalem’s
Ohel Nehama Synagogue.
Joshua will receive a book about the history of
the Hurva as a bar mitzva gift.