UPDATE: Rabbi David Wolpe has publicly apologized to Dallas teen Sam Horowitz and his family in a new Washington Post column.
Even by the over-the-top trappings that a Bar Mitzvah frequently entails, the Bar Mitzvah after-party of one Dallas 13-year-old named Sam Horowitz surely tops them all.
Held at the Omni Hotel in Dallas last November, and now catchable on YouTube, it puts Horowitz at the center of a saucy dance number with eight shimmying backup dancers who looked like they escaped from a Christina Aguilera video. Even if you look past the oddity of an adolescent munchkin prancing around with ladies more than twice his age, the sheer production value is eye-popping, with Horowitz lowered onto the stage like MJ himself before joining the dance number under a flurry of confetti.
The only surprise is how long it took for Horowitz's dance number to become the internet sensation it has in the past week, netting 768,000 views and counting. The Dallas teen has even made the talk show rounds. But not all the attention has been positive, and Horowitz's rabbi William Gershon of Congregation Shearith Israel has rushed to his defense.
Rabbi David Wolpe penned an August 15 op-ed in the Washington Post titled "Have we forgotten what Bar Mitzvahs are all about?" In it, Wolpe calls Horowitz' flashy dance moves, which included his name in lights, "egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful." And that's just in the first sentence.
Wolpe goes on to say that the 13-year-old's video "teaches a child sexualization of the spirit" worthy of historical outrage for its "hip-grinding libertinism." In a letter posted to Congregation Shearith Israel's Facebook page, Gershon defended the boy, who admittedly did sway his hips to and fro.
"My issue with what you wrote, David, has to do with the vituperative tone of your words — the way they mock and humiliate one of the children of my synagogue in the public forum. Sam is not an object. He is a Tzelem Elohim, an image of God, who happens to have a passion for acting, dancing and singing," the letter reads in part.
Much of the criticism of Horowitz's dance number centered on the apparent decadence and self-indulgence. Recent reports have surfaced that Horowitz donated $36,000 in bar mitzvah gift money to charity.
Gershon is asking Wolpe to apologize to the boy, saying that "humiliating anyone in public, let alone a teenager, flies in the face of the values that we would both agree are at the very heart of what it means to become Bar Mitzvah and to be Jew."