Barks and yelps echoed throughout the parking lot of Congregation Agudas Israel. Animals from all over gathered in honor of the congregation’s bark-mitzvah and meow-mitzvah. Although the event honored cats and dogs, a majority of the animals in attendance were dogs.
Last Sunday was the congregation’s first annual blessing of the animals. In addition, the event was the first Jewish blessing of the animals in Newburgh.
Provided at the event were various refreshments at no cost for pets and owners alike. Still, attendees were given the opportunity to donate. Although the event was Jewish in nature, individuals of all faiths were welcome. According to Mimica Hyman, a member of the congregation, the refreshments were free “so people don’t restrict themselves from getting a blessing.”
The event was organized and thought of by Hyman. “Everybody came together,” happily exclaimed Hyman. “The Rabbi’s blessing the animals, because animals are really a part of our life.”
“I think if any of the dogs want a bagel, it’s their right. It’s their bark-mitzvah,” declared Rabbi Jacob Rosner, as attendees responded with laughter.
One by one, dogs of all sizes and breeds approached Rosner to be blessed. The blessing coincided with the congregation’s reading of the story of Noah’s Ark.
“Noah was not just, save humanity,” said Rosner. “He saved the animals as well.” Rosner emphasized that the story teaches the importance of valuing and honoring animals. “So, I always think of Noah as a zookeeper.”
“Animals are really important to people’s spiritual health,” said Rosner. “To people’s mental health, especially people who are alone. They bring great joy to people’s hearts, and give people the opportunity to do great things.”
Rosner also perceives the event as an opportunity to teach about animal rights. “The rabbis make the idea of being cruel to animals as a very grave sin,” said Rosner.
“According to the Talmud. So, this is an opportunity to teach about what Judaism has to say about the righteous treatment of animals.”
Rosner said that the event isn’t too different from the Catholic Church’s Blessing of the Animals. He emphasized that all religions share similarities rooted in the desires for peace and love. “One of the things that I love about religion is that there’s more that we have in common than in difference.” said Rosner. “What God wants from us is compassion and love, not terror.”
Note: In the print edition, Rosner's name was misspelled as Razoner.