Big prayer was answered by a young person

Published 10:36 pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I was completely blown away this week when interviewing a 13-year-old. Yes, a young teenager had me at shalom. Not romantically of course, but I was taken back by his intelligence, his sharp-shooting personality and professionalism.

I normally do not expect quotes to be terribly colorful or outstanding when asking young people about their upcoming prom or pageant (usually getting answers such as, ‘It will be cool’ or ‘I can’t wait.)

But this young person was different and did not seem phased by tough questions coming his way. Elijah Schulman responded to my nosiness and questions with all of the conviction in the world — a world I believe he will one day help save.

Elijah decided a year ago he would have his Bar Mitzvah at Selma’s Temple Mishkan Israel, though he has only visited once and resides with his family in Maryland. He told me he wanted to honor his ancestors who settled in the area long ago.

But it doesn’t stop there. He raised $7,000 to help save the temple that is now in disrepair. While he could have had a Bar Mitzvah with all of this friends and family in Washington D.C., he decided he could make a difference instead.

He passed on having a D.J. for all of his closest friends. He skipped out on world-class catering. But I don’t think he missed the bus on honoring his roots, thinking of something bigger than himself and honoring God throughout the process of becoming a man.

Those ten remaining Jewish community members who attend the temple in Selma only do so a few times each year during holidays. The temple needs somewhere close to $5 million in renovations to get central air conditioning, patch cracks in the high, arched ceilings and fully restore the place back to its original shine. Some hope they can turn it over to a Jewish organization to be used as a museum to educate on Southern Jewish heritage and history.

But until that day comes, they have $7,000 in a trust set up by Elijah and an answer to a prayer.

“It dawned on me that I could actually make a difference for this temple,” he told me. “Most kids always say, ‘When I grow up I’m going to make a difference,’ or ‘I’m going to do all this cool stuff,’ but I realized I can do it now.”

I was certainly not thinking along those lines at his age.

As I sat in the temple during the service, stumbling through Hebrew words and trying to sing along with the rabbi singing and playing guitar, I thanked God for a little gift to Selma who has influenced the city in great ways — myself included.

Shalom y’all.