By Betty Nelander-Daily News Staff Writer
Family, friends and congregants will welcome Uziel Scheiner into the Jewish community at his bar mitzvah Saturday at Palm Beach Synagogue. Those who attend the ceremony on his 13th birthday will receive an extraordinary gift: a book he wrote about his great-grandfather and namesake, Uziel Chazanow, and his journey from Russia to the United States.
“You are not only having a bar mitzvah for yourself but you are also giving something to someone else,” Uziel, 12, said.
The bar mitzvah will continue in late June at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It will start with services at the wall, followed by a Torah dedication with family, friends and soldiers of an Israeli Defense Forces unit at an Army base. Uziel’s fundraising in Palm Beach is making it possible for the Israeli soldiers to have a Torah for their ark, a first for their small base. About $15,000 has been raised so far to restore that Torah in Israel.
“I know some other kids who had a bar mitzvah in Israel, so to actually have one there is pretty cool,” said Uziel, who has been to Israel eight times and on every trip the family has brought friendship and support to soldiers.
Uziel’s book is titled A Soldier of Another Kind and is published by his family, which includes his father, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner (the synagogue’s spiritual leader), mom Dinie Scheiner, and sisters Hindy, 17, and Malka, 15, who illustrated the story, and brothers Mendel, Yoseph and Yehudah Tzvi.
Uziel researched his great-grandfather’s life by speaking to his grandfather and other relatives and found the history riveting. “I did not know how much he and his family went through,” said Uziel of his great grandfather. “I knew of it, but I didn’t really know the details. I knew he moved and was constantly being chased, but when I went through the actual information, it was surprising and interesting to me what came out.”
The book tells of hardships Uziel and his family faced as Jews during the Russian Revolution and under the threat of communism. Under often harrowing conditions, Uziel, his wife and children escaped to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Paris before emigrating to America.
“He was very careful, and even while he was running he was still able to get a Jewish education. He kept up on it even while other people would have given up on it,” he said.
The book opens with a story describing in fearful incident in Samarkand, Russia, when his great-grandfather was being followed by a soldier, that hints at a surprising outcome.
Uziel thinks of his great-grandfather’s persistence when he faces challenges in his own life. “I knew that if he could do what he did on a higher plane, then I could do it,” he said.
“It will be very inspirational,” Uziel’s father said of the bar mitzvah.
“It’s important to remember your roots and to know the sacrifices they have to made.”