Embroidered tallit bag

My first speech

My first public speech was at my bar mitzvah. I was decked out in my new green suit and tie (remember, this was the 1970s) with my talit and a kipah my mom embroidered for me. Although I was shy, I felt comfortable standing on the bimah in front of family and friends. I had worked hard for the opportunity to give this speech, and I had something important to say.

My bar mitzvah was the day before Mother’s Day. Mom had spent nearly two years raising my brother and me as a single mom, and she had sacrificed so that I could have a Jewish education. I wanted to take that opportunity to thank her and share other things I believe.

There would be other speeches to come, most better written and organized. But it all began at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, California.

May 10, 1975

Today is a very happy day for me, and I am glad that you can share it with me.

A bar mitzvah is the ceremony when a boy can begin practicing the mitzvot of the Torah. So, today is also a beginning. A beginning of responsibility, of reverence. I hope that I will also be a good and pious Jew. A good and pious Jew is one who does what is right and loves his fellow man.

Love your fellow man? For generations, we have been persecuted by people who thought they were better than all others. Bigotry is a human ill. It is the reason why we have hate, war, and malice. And yet, all this bigotry is unnecessary. Why? Because although we are different, we’re created equal. Because, although we received the laws of God first, we all worship the same God.

One must learn to judge a person by their inner content, not their race. We must learn to love our fellow man because it is the way of God.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. What is a mother? A mother is a person who is concerned about her family and is will to make sacrifices in order for it to flourish. She is willing to care for her children long after they are grown. In some families, due to some circumstances, she is the only parent and the breadwinner as well.

A mother is a unique person and deserves not only one day to call her own, but she should get our love and respect always. This is the way I feel about my mother. I love her very much.