Left, Rabbi Idan Irelander with Myer Dawson at this bar mitzvah. Myer Dawson carries the Torah./COURTESY PHOTOS

Bar mitzvah boy reminds us: ‘It is really important that we don’t forget.’

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Bar mitzvah boy reminds us: ‘It is really important that we don’t forget.’

Left, Rabbi Idan Irelander with Myer Dawson at this bar mitzvah. Myer Dawson carries the Torah./COURTESY PHOTOS

For Myer Dawson, 13, just as the Israelites kept the shattered pieces of the Tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, we, too, must keep the broken fragments of ourselves as we move forward in our lives.

“We all have blemishes, imperfections, and flaws that make us unique, and we should not be discouraged by this,” Myer said in his bar mitzvah speech at Congregation Ahavat Olam in North Andover on April 27. “Instead, we should embrace these things as these things make us who we are.”

Myer’s was the shul’s 17th bar mitzvah, in the second bar mitzvah class of the young synagogue, which began as a small congregation in the summer of 2022. He is the son of two founding members of the shul, Jess Foley-Dawson and Max Dawson.

In addition to his dvar Torah, Myer also led the Saturday morning Shabbat service and read from the Torah. This was, he said, his favorite part – carrying and then reading from the scroll.

“That’s when it really felt like I was getting bar mitzvahed,” he said. “It was like, ‘It’s happening!’”

In his speech, Myer described how angry Moses was when he saw the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf – so much so that he shattered the Ten Commandments. “However, even though the tablets were destroyed, Moses did not throw them away,” Myer said in the speech. “These were holy stones and therefore Moses kept the pieces among the people. Keeping the broken stones also serves an educational lesson, allowing them to learn and grow from this experience.”

Reflecting on those lessons, Myer said, “We may experience negative times or experiences, but they become part of who we are.”

“I thought it was a very beautiful, beautiful speech,” said Rabbi Idan Irelander, who studied with Myer to help him prepare for the big day. “Myer is such a sweet young man, bright.”

Irelander also prepared with Myer’s older brother, Avram, back when the rabbi served as cantor at Temple Emanuel in Andover, along with Max, the boys’ father, for an adult bar mitzvah process he chose a few years back.

“It’s amazing,” Irelander said of the fact that he has bar mitzvahed three members of the family. “It just connected the bond between our families, it’s much deeper. We’ve been friends for a very long time. It’s almost like we are bound together as a goral, as a destiny … it just happened to be that our families are bound together so beautifully.”

“I am not Jewish from birth, and I feel extraordinarily comfortable there,” said Foley-Dawson, describing Congregation Ahavat Olam. “Idan and [his wife] Einat are amazing, the whole congregation is amazing. There’s just a lot of love there. It matches its name. Every time I go, I am struck by that.”

Myer Dawson stands with his parents and brother, Avram, at his bar mitzvah on April 27.

Both of her sons’ bar mitzvah experiences – tied together through Irelander – were powerful for her to watch.

“It’s amazing to see them [go from] not having having a grasp of the prayers and not having a grasp of leading the service to being confident and just showing how capable they are,” Foley-Dawson said. “It’s nice to see them thrive. It was nice to go through it again.”

Several family members came from out of state – and even from out of the country – to celebrate with Myer, and many participated in various aspects of the service, from opening the ark to receiving Aliyahs. His brother, now 17, got up and presented his tallis to him. After the main event, the bar mitzvah boy had a laser tag party with his brother and friends, followed by a celebratory dinner of 50.

In addition to the ritual aspects, Myer also raised over $850 for his mitzvah project, which went toward funding transportation for members of the temple to take a trip to “Auschwitz: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.” The exhibit has made waves since its arrival in Boston for being a unique and impactful telling of this piece of the Holocaust, and for being accessible and engaging for all ages. It is showing at the Castle at Park Plaza in Back Bay until early September.

Around 40 Ahavat Olam congregants – helped by Myer’s fundraising – got on a bus and went to the exhibit as a community on May 5, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It was really a moving experience, filled with emotions,” said Irelander. “It’s definitely a must-attend, must-see exhibition. Jewish education is so important to [Myer] and to his family, so it was a natural contribution that for his mitzvah project, he would support our transportation to the exhibit and also to Jewish education in our temple.”

Raising money to support Holocaust remembrance was important to Myer, especially as he invited several non-Jewish friends from school and his fencing team to attend his bar mitzvah, in addition to Jewish friends. “Some of the people who [were at the bar mitzvah] wouldn’t really know the stuff that’s happening, what’s happened in the past,” he said.

In his speech on the day he became a Jewish adult, Myer said, “The memory of the Jewish experience in World War II must not fade as time passes, and those who were there in person become fewer. It is really important that we don’t forget.” Θ

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