The Jewish community of Rockwall, Texas recently celebrated its first bar mitzvah in the city’s history. Since a few months, thirteen years Ilan Parnes prepared diligently for this special rite of passage, and on Shabbat he read Torah in front of his family and friends.
It has been a year of many “firsts” for the Rockwall Jewish community: the first bar mitzvah, the first menorah street light and the first community seder, to name a few.
Rockwall is an idyllic little Dallas suburb perched on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard, and scattered within its population of around 46,000 are more than two hundred Jewish families. Until recently, however, they had no idea of each other’s existence.
“I thought I was the only Jew in Rockwall for thirty years,” said Gary Freedman, a retired insurance executive and auctioneer, known locally as the “Voice of Rockwall”.
Reinvigorated by the group’s success, Revi contacted Rabbi Menachem Block, Chana’s father and director of the neighboring Plano Chabad, and demanded that a Chabad rabbi and Rebbetzin lead the thriving community. A few months later, Rabbi Moishy, Chana and their two young daughters were on a plane to Rockwall, Texas.
“It was very exciting,” said Rabbi Moishy. “We could see the potential of a growing community – a lot of people who hadn’t been connected for many years – and it was a wonderful opportunity. “
It was a year ago. Step into the present – past the city’s very first sukkah mobile, past cold lakeside menorah lighting with Gary’s audio system, past countless Shabbat services led by Rabbi Moishy – and we’re back in June 2021, when the city is in turmoil after its first bar mitzvah.
“We’ve never, never, never had a bar mitzvah in Rockwall,” Gary said.
Ilan’s parents originally planned to celebrate bar mitzvah in Israel, but when COVID made that impossible, they planned a celebration with the local Jewish community, a community that feels like family to them, said Alex Parnes, Ilan’s mother.
The bar mitzvah was held at the Kalmensons’ home – the base of Chabad events and services – and will be remembered for many years as a watershed for Rockwall as well as the many other Jewish milestones celebrated this year.
For Gary, being part of these milestones has been particularly emotional. “Being a first, being a part of these events just rekindled the Jew in me,” Gary said.
And that’s just the beginning. Rabbi Moishy and Chana have big plans for the coming year that will likely mark the start of another round of “firsts” in Rockwall. In addition to continuing the vacation programming, adult classes and the Hebrew school they launched in their first year, they plan to introduce teen programs and other new initiatives into their impressive Jewish programming. . Stay tuned.
You can support this growing Jewish community by donating to https://www.jewishrockwall.com/donate