I’ve written a few times over the years about Gary Chattman, a one-of-a-kind bar mitzvah tutor who calls himself, modestly, Mr. Bar Mitzvah.
Chattman, who lives in Yonkers, drives around with a mini-Torah and a bag of tricks and teaches Jewish kids who don’t go to traditional Hebrew schools how to be Jews. He covers Hebrew, history, literature, prayers, you name it, in a constantly evolving style that he caters to each child.
When bar or bas mitzvah time comes, Chattman, the student and the student’s family devise the service together. Then the student leads the service himself or herself, without a rabbi.
Not everyone would go for this sort of thing, needless to say, but there is tremendous demand for Chattman’s services (he has officiated at over 200 Bâ€™nai Mitzvot).
Last month, Chattman oversaw what is believed to be the first ever bar mitzvah at Ellis Island. The bar mitzvah boy saw an ad calling for donations to restore Ellis Island and decided to use the occasion of his bar mitzvah to raise money for the restoration.
Then he pulled out the stops and decided to do the whole thing where so many Jewish immigrants came to America.
Chattman has recently written two books. One of them, Coming of Age, is about his experience as a semi-maverick bar mitzvah tutor. The other, If I Should Die Before I Wake, is a novel.
Chattman will have a book signing for both books on Sunday (June 8) from 3 to 5 p.m. at the home of Joel and Mara Faden, 3 Laura Lane in Scarsdale. For info, call 914-237-2159 or 914-725-8208.
It should be something. I’m sure Chattman will have a lot of stories to tell. He’s a pretty animated guy and totally dedicated to his unorthodox calling.
By the way, Chattman’s son, Jon, was just featured in the Journal News/LoHud. He is a mustache obsessed, pop-culture maven who…well, read it yourself.