Miracle child celebrates bar mitzvah
MONTREAL — David Bregman’s survival after being born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing just 740 grams (1.63 pounds) was received as a miracle by his parents.
He spent more than three months in neonatal intensive care at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), and left for home weighing 2.35 kilos (a little over five pounds).
David became the poster child for the JGH’s $50-million capital campaign, pictured asleep contentedly in the arms of a nurse.
That was 15 years ago. There have been many challenges for David and his parents, Orit Jacobovitz and Howard Bregman, in that time.
He has had health and other physical concerns to deal with, and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
He attended United Talmud Torahs’ Shorashim program for children with mild developmental delays, and is now at Summit School for youngsters with special needs.
This month, at 15, David celebrated his bar mitzvah, a rite of passage his parents thought he would never achieve. They were given little encouragement that it was possible.
The rabbis his parents approached gave them “the runaround” when they asked about his having a bar mitzvah at their synagogue, or just never called back.
“David did not fit into a perfect box,” Orit said. “They saw him as a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.”
Discouraged, David himself did not want to pursue it. Judaism did not hold much interest for him.
That was until the family was put in touch with Rabbi Moshe Krasnanski, director of Chabad of the Town, by the parents of another child with special needs.
“Rabbi Krasnanski immediately welcomed us with open arms, and said he would do all that he could to make this happen,” Orit said.
One week after the ceremony, David was “still on cloud nine. He says, ‘I’m a super star,’” she added.
David clicked right away with the centre’s Rabbi Zalmy Rader, who tutored him over several months. With Rabbi Rader’s patience and kindness, David blossomed and looked forward to his Sunday morning lessons. He actually found them fun and interesting.
“If you show a child love, he will respond,” Rabbi Rader said. “He needed someone to believe in him.”
His mother noticed how her son matured over those months.
David’s father said his son now “realizes he can overcome everything, if he puts his mind to it.”
When David went up to the bimah on a Monday morning at the Jean Talon Street centre, he read confidently from the Torah, while his father and Rabbi Rader stood beside him. One of David’s physical challenges has affected his speech, but the Hebrew words flowed from him that day.
In his speech afterward, David remembered his twin, Gregory, “who should be standing beside me today.” Gregory died when he was 16 days old.
In evident good spirits, David continued, “I know that I am a bit overdue, but as my mom always says, ‘Better late than never…’ Mom, you can stop nagging me now. I finally do understand the importance of being bar mitzvahed and the keeping of our Jewish traditions.”
Now that he is a man, he continued humorously, David said he expects to be making his own rules and decisions from now on.
He thanked Rabbi Krasnanski for giving him this opportunity, and said he looked forward to continuing to make his parents proud.
David turned to his sole sibling, 11-year-old brother Shayne, thanking him for “coming to my rescue in times of need.”
Rabbi Krasnanski noted that David’s parshah was particularly appropriate. In the passage, God reminds the Jewish People that life is a gift and that each day is an opportunity not to be squandered.
David, he said has grasped that truth, and turned his life into a blessing.