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February 12, 1993 - Image 105

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-02-12

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Religious Business


erusalem—You are a
57-year-old American
rabbi set on making
aliyah to a land flowing
with qualified (and
younger) rabbis. What do
?you do? If you're Jay
Karzen, you find a way
to create a unique job for
Rabbi Karzen, from a
large congregation near
Chicago, officiated at
( 1,500 bar and bat mitz-
vahs during his 27-year
rabbinical career. When
planning his aliyah, he
decided to capitalize on
this experience and
> founded "Rituals Un-
limited," arranging bar/
bat mitzvahs in Israel
for families from abroad.
"We came at a difficult
age," Rabbi Karzen said.
"Too young to retire but
not old enough to get

social security. I knew I
wouldn't be a rabbi here
and have a congregation,
so I decided that I had to
come up with something
else to make a living".
The rabbi is an old
hand at creative innova-
tions. "When I was 15, I
started a youth congre-
gation in my synagogue
in Chicago," he said.
Given the chance to
lead services himself, he
went on to become a pro-
fessional chazan (cantor)
at age 18. During a sum-
mer at Bnei Akiva's
Camp Moshava, he met
his future wife Ruby.
"Who's that boy with the
beautiful voice?" she
asked a friend. Three
years later they were
During the next 30
years they lived in small

towns and together
worked on innovative
ways to involve congre-
gants in Jewish life.
Now in Israel, "Com-
munity involvement is
my job," the rabbi said.

"I had to come
u_p with a

Rabbi Karzen

He has arranged bar/
bat mitzvahs for tourists
from throughout the
United States, Canada,
and South Africa. He
also has a few native
Israeli and new Soviet
immigrant clients whom
he doesn't charge.
The rabbi also has a
large clientele of adults
who never had a bar/bat
mitzvah. "I recently did

Rabbi Karzen, right, with a bar mitzvah at the Wall.

bar mitzvahs for two 75-
year-old men from
Florida," he said. "One
was dying of cancer and
the other had heart prob-
lems and his doctors
were not optimistic. You
can't begin to imagine
how emotional this was."
Not everyone is satis-
fied with the uniqueness
of a bar or bat mitzvah
ceremony is Israel. "I got
a call from a man staying
at the Plaza Hotel in
Jerusalem who said he
wanted to interview me

to see if I was the right
rabbi for them.

"What he asked me
was if I knew the 1945
Chicago Cubs batting
order. (I did.) That was
the last year the Cubs
won the pennant and at
10-years-old I was a big
Cubs fan.

"'You're our rabbi!' he
cried. The whole family
was crazy about baseball
and they wanted to make
sure they had a rabbi who
was a fan too.



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