NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s the trip of a lifetime for a Brooklyn-born rabbi who brought his family all the way back from California to have his son’s bar mitzvah in Crown Heights.
But it was no easy journey.
As CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Monday, the rabbi didn’t let late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis stop him.
As 13-year-old Shalom Hurwitz was called up to the Torah for his bar mitzvah on Monday, his father watched proudly. It was the culmination of a whirlwind trip from the family’s home in California to Rabbi Yitzi’s birthplace of Brooklyn.
The trip was made nearly impossible by the devastating effects of late-stage ALS, a progressive degeneration of nerve cells that leads to spreading paralysis and eventual death, usually less than three years after diagnosis.
Rabbi Yitzi can’t walk, move or talk, and only communicates with his eyes. So a cross-country trip to Brooklyn seemed unlikely. Even to his wife, Dina.
“I was like, not … ‘Yeah, that’s not happening,'” Dina Hurwitz said.
But Rabbi Yitzi was determined, knowing now more than ever how precious life is.
“Getting a diagnosis of ALS, especially because it’s a very aggressive form, two years is what they gave us from the date of diagnosis, and here we are, six and a half years later, and watching our youngest son have a bar mitzvah. Every day is such a gift to us,” Dina said.
The Hurwitz’s son was called to the Torah in the former study of the Rebbe in Crown Heights, the room considered holy ground by many Jews. As Rabbi Yitzi continues his battle with ALS, his story has inspired thousands, prompting many to contribute to the Hurwitz Family Fund.
“That’s why we all gathered around him and we support his mission of making sure that he represents the Rebbe the way he always dreamed of doing since he was a little boy, to go out into the world and make this world a much better place,” said Rabbi Shlomo Bistritsky of the Chabad of North Ranch in California.
Rabbi Yitzi made the nearly 3,000-mile journey with a lot of help. Ambulances and even a medical plane were donated for transportation.
If you would like to help the family with its medical costs, please click here.