A wedding, a bris, a bar mitzvah, oh my! It’s not often people find themselves attending all three events three days in a row. However, Rabbi Yossi Katz of the Lubavitch on the Palisades had the privilege of being not just a spectator at these life-cycle events, but the rabbi officiating at all of them as well.
From Thursday, May 18 through Sunday, May 21, Rabbi Katz officiated at a bar mitzvah, was the mohel at a bris and served as mesader kiddushin for a wedding, in that order. Being a part of all three life-cycle events was a moving experience for him and the community in Tenafly he has grown so close to.
“To have the honor of being able to assist other people in doing a mitzvah is the most precious thing we can do,” said Rabbi Katz.
Rabbi Katz received his rabbinical degree at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey, and received his training as a mohel in Jerusalem with master mohel Rabbi Yosef Oren. He has been a rabbi of the Chabad community in Tenafly for nine years, which is under the leadership of Executive Director Rabbi Mordechai Shain.
Rabbi Katz had always been fascinated with both rabbinical and medical career paths. His mother is a doctor, and as a child he often witnessed his mother in action during emergency calls or visits made to their home where he grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is now grateful for his chance to merge his medical and rabbinic interests as a mohel.
His role as a Chabad rabbi includes the management of the different activities the community has to offer. He works with the two other Chabad rabbis in Tenafly, Rabbi Mordechai Shain and Rabbi Yitzchak Gershovitz. He runs the Hebrew school and elementary school at Lubavitch on the Palisades, and is the boys’ camp director in the summer. He teaches a course called Jewish Lifecycles once a week——a topic quite relevant to the weekend he experienced.
The Regev family, who moved to the Tenafly community eight years ago when their son was in kindergarten, was excited to finally celebrate their son’s bar mitzvah at Chabad. They were glad to work with a rabbi who is “calm, very welcoming and very flexible,” said Mrs. Regev. Their son Yoav was eager to learn with Rabbi Katz in preparation for his bar mitzvah.
The rabbi also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the Kushnick family at their son’s bris as “a new soul comes into the world to accompany them,” he said. Even though there were no pictures or videos taken the day of the event, the guests sang and danced in celebration of the baby’s first Jewish milestone.
Rabbi Katz felt honored to be able to officiate the Brumaru and Modell family wedding, which overlooked the water and the New York City coastline in Weehawken, New Jersey. He shared in more than just the 30-minute wedding ceremony. He had learned with the groom, and his wife had learned with the bride, all about the halachic preparations necessary for a Jewish wedding.
“It was such an honor for me to be able to share with them one of the most important days of their lives,” he said.
For Rabbi Katz, the most rewarding part of his job is having the opportunity to spread mitzvot throughout the community. Despite all the stress that comes with planning big events like bar mitzvahs and weddings, the rabbi feels that the connection he creates with families is incomparable.
“I see a wonderful growing community,” the Rabbi said, “and it gives me tremendous joy to be a part of it.”
By Elizabeth Zakaim
Elizabeth Zakaim is a rising junior journalism and psychology double major at The College of New Jersey. She is also a summer intern at The Jewish Link. Feel free to email her at [email protected] with any questions or comments.