Dad’s Bar Mitzvah

A guest blog post by JMM volunteer docent Harvey Karch. Learn a little bit more about Harvey in this Volunteer Spotlight post.

As part of our 175th Anniversary celebrations of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis reached out to Harvey because of his family’s connection to the Shomrei Mishmeres Congregation. Harvey was willing to share this family story about his father’s 1936 bar mitzvah in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Every family has its stories that are handed down from generation to generation.  This one, from my family, falls somewhere between bubba miseh and fact, only because there is no record of the event actually happening.  I know that because I have researched the records of the Shomrei Mishmeres Congregation and not been able to identify any written record to confirm the story.  However, I am told that back when this event was said to have occurred, it was not considered a special day in the history of the Congregation.  Also, unlike today when each congregation publishes a program every Shabbat that is handed out to those in attendance, or, even if they had done that, they probably would not have listed the name of the Bar Mitzvah on that Shabbat.

My father, Leonard, was born on January 13, 1923.  He was the second child and first boy born to Wolf (Velvel) and Mollie Karch, who were living above their grocery store in the Dundalk section of Baltimore.  When it came time for Leonard’s first Aliyah and his becoming a Bar Mitzvah, Velvel took him to the synagogue that he was most familiar with and where his father, my great grandfather and for whom my middle name is in memory of, was a member, Shomrei Mishmeres on Lloyd Street.  While I have not been able to verify the exact date of my father’s Bar Mitzvah aliyah, congregational records do show that Aaron was a member of the synagogue.  Another connection the family had to Shomrei Mishmeres was that the congregation was made up of people from the same area of Eastern Europe that the Karsh/Karch family was from, Volhynia in today’s Ukraine.

 So, the family story is that on a snowy Saturday morning in January 1936, my father, grandfather, and great grandfather, and probably a few other family members, walked from Aaron’s home on East Baltimore Street to Lloyd Street.  Because of the bad weather, there was barely a minyan present.  However, despite that, the Aliyah took place, and Leonard became a Bar Mitzvah.  After services, the group walked back to the East Baltimore Street home and enjoyed what has been described as some kichel, honey cake, and a drink of whisky, or two.  My father was Aaron’s first grandson to become Bar Mitzvah, so I am certain that there was at least one drink taken to mark the occasion.  Oh, how things have changed since then when it comes to how we America Jews celebrate such occasions!

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