It might not make the Guinness Book of World Records, but the all-in-the-Bezinovich family Tri-Mitzvah, as Rabbi Gary Gerson called it on March 14 was certainly a first for Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion.

The event started out as a normal bar mitzvah. As with many 13-year-old Jewish boys, Nick Bezinovich began studying with the synagogue’s cantor, Julie Yugend-Green, about half a year ago, working on the Hebrew in the Torah text, preparing for this day and practicing the chants or tropes to which it would be sung.

That’s when Kathy, Nick’s mother, decided after growing up in a Jewish family and being active in Oak Park Temple for several years, that it was time for her to have become “bat mitzvah,” i.e. daughter of the Commandment and “responsible for the performance of the mitzvot (commandments; principles of law and ethics that are contained in the Five Books of Moses, the Torah).

Four of Kathy’s six children had previously become b’nai mitzvah, which would have left the eldest son, Adam, as the only remaining child to not go through this rite of passage signifying entry into the Jewish community as an adult. When Kathy and Ned, her husband, were married they decided to let the first child decide for himself whether he wanted to be Jewish or Catholic (which is how Ned had been raised). For that reason, Adam never went to Hebrew school or became bar mitzvah.

With the encouragement of his mother and father, the 25-year-old math teacher, who now lives in Kansas City, studied with Cantor Green during his summer vacation and on his own during the school year using a CD, books and reciting to his family on the phone to see if he was getting his pronunciation and chant right.

“I was always interested in Judaism,” Adam said, “and I did go to high holiday services at the temple with my mom. I wished I had done bar mitzvah when I was 13. Now that I had the opportunity, it was something I needed to do.”

“Baruch ata Adonai ¡­” So began many of the prayers the three Bezinoviches intoned as they helped Rabbi Gerson and Cantor Green lead the Shabbat service on the 18th of Adar 5769 in the Jewish calendar. After chanting their portions of the Torah, each of the Bezinoviches interpreted the portion they had read.

Nick talked about patience, Kathy about faith and Adam about second chances.

During the thank yous at the end of the service, Kathy had tears in her eyes as she spoke about how grateful she was not only for the religious meaning of the day but also that all of her children ¡ª one came all the way from Korea, one from Denver and Adam from Kansas City ¡ª were together for the occasion.

After the service, the congregation and guests, which included most of Nick’s class in school, moved to the temple’s community hall for a truly gala feast called a Seudat Mitzvah, a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzvah.

The Bezinoviches chose for the Tzedakah, i.e. charity or justice project, the creation of an entertainment library for the Pediatric Palliative Care Program at Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care where Kathy works.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...