William Farrel, from Monsey, New York, was a participant on a KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel trip this summer. As part of his experience in Israel, William celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with the community. Here are the words he shared as part of his D’var Torah.

The Tug of Judaism: A Birthright Bar Mitzvah

William Farrell receives a blessing from the community following his Bar Mitzavah in Jerusalem as part of a KESHER Taglit-Birthright Israel trip


As a product of a mixed marriage, I was raised in modern, secular household. In that sense, I was able to experience wonderful cultural traditions like Hanukkah alongside Christmas, and Passover followed by Easter, mostly devoid of their original theistic intentions. I truly do appreciate the latitude my parents allowed my siblings and I in order to forge our own beliefs without the pressure and expectations associated with a strong religious upbringing. Consequently though, I was left with no clear path to a Bar Mitzvah.

Yet here I am today, more than eleven years after the Jewish tradition would have recognize my ascent to manhood, opting to engage in this right of passage. For as long as I have been cognizant, I have striven to understand my moral responsibilities and to acquire the continence to see them through. During this time I have often felt the tug of Judaism  informing my moral conscience.

Despite my appreciation and affinity for Judaism, I lack any formal connection to it.  Yet, being here on Birthright, in Jerusalem, and most importantly with all of you with your incredibly diverse backgrounds, has led to my decision to solidify my connection to Judaism. Connection is after all what kesher means and I believe in this respect it is incredibly deserving of its namesake. You are absolutely a group that I want to be connected with.

I look forward not just to spending the remainder of this trip with you but also to being connected to you through the Jewish tradition for the rest of my life. I do not know where I will end up and what I may do in the future, but I would like to clearly and unequivocally affirm my Jewish heritage before all of you today.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.