Rabbi David Wolpe has made a public apology to Sam Horowitz of Dallas, the bar mitzvah boy whose lavish party and professionally choreographed celebratory dance has gone viral on the Internet via a YouTube video.
The extravaganza, which has garnered more than 430,000 play views, was praised as “a great event” by the hosts of “Good Morning America,” when young Sam did an encore performance with six showgirls on the streets of Time Square recently.
But Rabbi Wolpe, spiritual leader of Los Angeles’ Temple Sinai, called the video “egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful,” so offensive he didn’t know where to begin in describing the act of “turning a ceremony of spiritual maturation into a Vegas showgirl parade.”
Now he’s softened his stance in an opinion piece on the Washington Post’s website, writing that colleagues have taken him to task for “appearing to insult a child and those who love him. I am truly sorry for that.”
Wolpe restated the thrust of his position, however, decrying the practice of combining a holy rite of passage with “a party that is thoroughly inappropriate: pricey and even lewd. If we cannot feel — deeply feel — the disconnect, then something is broken in our Jewish souls.
The now-famous clip shows young Sam’s entrance to his initiation ceremony, which took place at the Omni Hotel in Dallas and was originally posted on YouTube last November.
In the video, Sam makes his entrance by slowly descending in a giant chandelier on an elaborate stage with his name ablaze in 20-foot-high neon lights in the background. There he is greeted by a bevy of eight sexy female dancers, and together they all bust their moves to Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again.”
All in good taste, apparently, to the large and appreciative audience.
At his Broadway encore, dressed in a sparkly white outfit, Sam described his “dream come true,” and his mom, Elaine, spoke of how proud she was of him.
Perhaps to offset the criticism of those like Rabbi Wolpe, the Horowitz family let it be known this week that in lieu of gifts, they asked their invited guests to support a Jewish Agency youth village near Hadera in Israel.
According to the Jewish Agency, the family and guests raised $36,000 this summer for the Ben Yakir Youth Village, a residential education facility for boys, ages 12 to 18, most of whom are from Ethiopia, with severe emotional, behavioral and family problems.
No information was available on the cost of Sam’s bar mitzvah.
JTA and Helen Chernikoff contributed to this report.