Josh Picker’s Bar Mitzvah

Last night was a truly magnificient event. I have been tutoring Josh Picker for five years, teaching him Hebrew, Jewish values, and important Jewish themes and concepts. During the past year, Josh has been preparing to become a Bar Mitzvah.

At the Michealson Studio on Bank Street in Manhattan, Josh led over two-hundred guests in the Ma’ariv service and Havdallah. He also delivered a super Bar Mitzvah speech.

Josh is a seventh grader at York Prep School on New York City’s Upper West Side. He’s a great snowboarder, a videogame mayven, and an all-around good kid.

In my opening remarks before Josh’s speech, I explained how my relationship with Josh began.

“I first met Josh almost five years ago. We began learning the Hebrew alphabet letter by letter, but I wasn’t sure it was going to work out. Not because of Josh, but because I’m allergic to cats and dogs and every few minutes I’d have either a dog or a cat jumping on my lap!”

“But I seemed to manage because, as I soon realized, this would be a relationship to be treasured. Before I knew it, Josh was reading Hebrew with no problems and a great friendship had begun. Each week, for several years, I would visit the Spielman home and feel like family. Josh and I would learn about the Jewish holidays, about important values like charity and compassion to those less fortunate, and about the mitzvot – the commandments. In the past year, I’ve had the privilege of inviting Josh into my ‘home’ – at The Jewish Theological Seminary – on the Upper West Side. Sitting in the Seminary’s Beit Midrash – literally the ‘House of Study,’ Josh has been preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. He is now ready to be a responsible young Jewish man.”

I later taught the famous words of wisdom from Pirkei Avot attributed to Joshua ben Perachya. Aseh l’kha rav, u’kne l’kha chaver — “Select a teacher for yourself and acquire a friend.” Josh, I explained, has done both. I have become both his teacher and his friend. Josh has become my student, friend, and teacher. He is a real mensch and should be a model for other young people with learning disabilities that when you put your mind to something, you will succeed. I am very proud of Josh’s achievements.

Mazel Tov to Josh and his entire family on this most meaningful milestone in their lives! I am grateful to have been a part of it.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |