Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Last week at Camp Gan Israel at Alpine, as the girls were heading back to camp from bowling, Ricardo Rodriguez of Bergenfield, the bus driver assigned to the girls’ camp, was speaking to the head counselor. “I’m not Jewish, but my mother was,” he said.

As the campers were leaving the bus, the head counselor quickly told Rabbi Yossi Katz, the camp’s director, that she thought the bus driver may be Jewish. He rushed over with a pair of tefillin and had a brief conversation with the gentleman, determining his mother’s maiden name and learning some of the traditions that his mother had practiced before she passed away. Rabbi Katz then explained that Jewish identity is matrilineal, and let him know that he was indeed Jewish according to Jewish law.

Rodriguez also shared that felt he had been sent to the camp specifically to protect these children.

As the entire girls camp gathered, Rabbi Katz helped Rodriguez put on tefillin for the first time ever, and together the girls helped him recite the Shema. Rabbi Katz explained to the whole camp that this was Rodriguez’s bar mitzvah.

Rabbi Katz and Rodriguez then exchanged phone numbers, and the rabbi agreed to help the bus driver further explore his Judaism.

By Elizabeth Kratz


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