Middleton, a town in south-eastern County Cork, Ireland, is famous as the headquarters of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.
It is also home to Julie, an American expat, who lives alone with her son Connor, 14. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Julie's family belonged to a Reform temple, but since her move to Ireland years ago, she has not participated in anything Jewish.
When we initially made contact with Julie, she told us that she had been wanting to give Connor a Bar Mitzvah for a while, but had never managed to do so. She asked if there was anything we could do. We offered to put on tefillin with him, say the blessings, and speak about the significance of a Bar Mitzvah. It would be a basic, no-frills, Bar Mitzvah ceremony.
Later that week, Julie and Connor, whose Hebrew name we learned was Chaim, arrived at our hotel for an intimate Bar Mitzvah celebration in the hotel lobby. While we wrapped Connor in Tefillin, Julie was taking photos and videos, beaming with Jewish motherly pride.
What's a Bar Mitzvah without presents? We gave Chaim/Connor an illustrated Scroll of Esther, and we gave Julie the book Think Jewish by Rabbi Zalman Posner.
It was not your typical Bar Mitzvah. No reception. No theme. No party planner. No entertainment. But in a sleepy town in Ireland, without fanfare, a Jewish boy became aware of his rightful place in the Jewish nation.