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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

December 14, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Menorah Manor resident gets aliyah wish fulfilled at age 71


Anatoly and Mel, joined by Director of Spiritual Care Rabbi Aaron Lever, stand at the bima after they each receive an aliyah. Anatoly and Mel, joined by Director of Spiritual Care Rabbi Aaron Lever, stand at the bima after they each receive an aliyah. Menorah Manor resident Anatoly Naroditsky fulfilled a lifelong dream on a recent Shabbat morning — one he thought impossible when he was growing up in the former Soviet Union.

Naroditsky was called to the Torah for an aliyah for the first time in his life, proudly joining Jewish people across the world as they received the same ritual honor.

It was a moment that touched everyone in the room, including Naroditsky’s wife, Marcia, who watched on with misty eyes. It was also a moment that Naroditsky once thought impossible.

“I grew up in the Soviet Union, where they forbid religious practice,” said Naroditsky who recently turned 71. “I couldn’t attend Hebrew school. I couldn’t become a bar mitzvah. I couldn’t even go to synagogue.”


Anatoly Naroditsky, left, works with fellow Menorah Manor resident Mel Blonsky, on learning the Torah blessings in preparations for Naroditsky’s first-ever aliyah. Anatoly Naroditsky, left, works with fellow Menorah Manor resident Mel Blonsky, on learning the Torah blessings in preparations for Naroditsky’s first-ever aliyah. When Director of Spiritual Care Rabbi Aaron Lever asked residents one morning if anyone wanted to learn how to have an aliyah, Naroditsky immediately said yes.

For him, this was a chance to feel connected to Judaism in a way he had never been able to before.

“It makes a big difference to feel part of the Jewish population,” Naroditsky said. “When I wear the tallis and say the prayers, I feel connected to the Jewish people.”

Fellow Menorah Manor resident Mel Blonsky eagerly offered to teach Naroditsky when he heard that he wanted to learn. Blonsky had grown up in an Orthodox household in Kansas City, MO, and attended Hebrew school throughout his childhood.

“It brought me a lot of joy to teach Anatoly,” Blonsky, 75, said.

Together, the friends set a goal: Naroditsky would be ready to have his first aliyah by Rosh Hashanah.

Blonsky and Naroditsky started meeting for half an hour a few times a week after breakfast. They continued their sessions for three weeks, using a practice sheet that Rabbi Lever provided.

Naroditsky said he found the words in the prayers for the aliyah easy to pronounce, because they were similar to Russian.

“One of the most gratifying things was watching him pick it up so quickly,” Blonsky said. “He was a very good student.”

With Blonsky’s help, Naroditsky’s confidence grew and he became more comfortable with the blessings. He was ready to receive his first aliyah, which fittingly occurred the day before Rosh Hashanah on Saturday, Sept. 8.

It was an emotional and proud day for Naroditsky and his family. His wife cried with joy after he recited the blessings, and the entire congregation shared a Shehecheyanu, a prayer said whenever doing something for the first time, to celebrate the momentous occasion.

“It was a shared simcha for everyone in the room at that moment,” Rabbi Lever said. “How often is it that you have the chance to witness someone do an aliyah who hasn’t had one before? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

For Naroditsky, the occasion represented a new beginning in his lifelong desire to participate in Jewish life. Soon after he finished his first aliyah, he made plans to take Hebrew lessons with Blonsky. The two have already begun meeting two to three times a week.

“I look forward to it,” Blonsky said. “It’s been great to watch him grow.”

Naroditsky agreed.

“This experience has made me feel very proud of myself, my friends, and the society we live in,” he said.


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