Leading services old hat for this bar mitzvah
By Deborah Moon
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When Matan Horenstein steps onto the bimah at Congregation Shaarie Torah Oct. 13 to become a bar mitzvah, it won’t be the first time he has led services.
In fact, Horenstein has been leading services for residents of Rose Schnitzer Manor one Friday evening a month since he was 11.
“I enjoy leading services there because I see how much it is appreciated and it never fails to bring smiles to all of their faces,” said Horenstein.
Volunteers regularly lead services for seniors at Cedar Sinai Park—both at Rose Schnitzer Manor and Robison Jewish Health Center.
“We have a continuous group of volunteers leading services,” said CSP Chief Executive Officer David Fuks. “Some come as part of their bar mitzvah. Matan is the exemplar.”
“Matan has developed wonderful poise,” said Fuks, who added Horenstein’s dedication over such an extended period is unusual among those who volunteer as part of their b’nai mitzvah. “He speaks well and his command of the liturgy is a pleasure to observe. It’s also a pleasure to watch his family participate.”
Matan is frequently joined at services by all or part of his family—parents Dorice and Bob Horenstein and siblings Hadas, 16, and Yaniv, 4.
“It gives me such pleasure to watch those little boys,” said RSM resident Esther Ritchie.
Ritchie said her father died when she was 26 months old and she didn’t have “the privilege” of learning Hebrew or attending Sunday School regularly.
“I was confirmed at Neveh Zedek, but I never had the privilege of being around children that young who are that knowledgeable,” she said, mentioning both Matan and Yaniv. “I feel so privileged to know a little one like that.”
RSM resident Ester Kahn likewise praised Horenstein’s command of the service.
“He gives such a nice service,” she said. “He is very mature for his age. He is a fantastic young man. He will go a long way.”
Horenstein said that he tries to greet each resident as they arrive and introduce himself. He personalizes the service by sharing something that has happened in his life over the previous month.
“Throughout the service, I pause to address the guests and include them in my service,” he said. “After the service, they always come to me and tell me how grateful they are that I choose to spend my Shabbat with them.”
Horenstein said that after his bar mitzvah, he expects to continue to lead services at the Manor, though perhaps only once every two to three months. Since his grandparents are RSM residents, he said it gives him an excellent opportunity to connect with them and their friends.
“We’re supposed to do 18 hours of mitzvot or community service before our bar mitzvah,” said Horenstein. “I think I’ve done a lot more than 18 hours.”
In addition to leading services at RSM, last year Horenstein collected donations for Standing Together, an organization that gives food, clothes and supplies to Israeli soldiers. He collected kosher American candy, underclothes, scarves and non-battery flashlights, and made them into 70 care packages, enough for an entire army unit.
“My mom then went to Israel and hand delivered all the packages,” he said, adding he hopes to collect donations again before his mother leads a family trip to Israel in 2008.
He has also helped serve food at Potluck in the Park and helps young children with the blessings at Shaarie Torah’s junior congregation. He is on the Young Judaea middle school board, calling people to come to each event.
In the printed program he has created for guests at his bar mitzvah, Horenstein has written detailed descriptions of his two main mitzvah projects—RSM and Standing Together. He said he hopes that by reading about his efforts, more people will become involved with both organizations.