JEWLARIOUS SATIRE: San Francisco, CA – Thursday, August 9, 2007 will go down in history as the day that Barry Berman broke the record for getting called up to the Torah and became the new all-time aliyah king.
Berman heard his name called in the number two slot reserved for those from the tribe of Levi, and walked up to the Torah with his arms triumphantly raised above his head. He grabbed hold of the Torah and in his loud baritone voice chanted the blessings for the record 756th time. When the Torah reading was completed, Berman recited the concluding blessings and the capacity crowd at the synagogue responded with a thunderous amen and broke out into a rendition of, "Siman Tov N Mazel Tov."
Berman belted out the blessings at his home synagogue Beth Jacob/Beth Israel in San Francisco, California. The aliyah came off Torah reader Ami Monson who has previously read for a Berman aliyah 23 times. Berman's son Marc, greeted his father with a hug and a "Yasher koach," after the historic alyiah which moved him past Henry Aaron who had held the record for the past 33 years. The synagogue president was not in attendance but one of the synagogue's vice presidents presented Berman with a skullcap embroidered with "756".
Berman thanked the Men's club, the synagogue members, his family and the gabbai (ritual official) in brief remarks following the conclusion of his aliyah. Berman said, "Being called to the Torah is truly an honor and this record is something I have dreamt about since I became a bar-mitzvah."
Unfortunately, controversy has dogged Berman throughout this historic chase ever since some people have called in to question his status as a Levi. Berman has refused to submit to a DNA test and has always said, "I am a Levi, my father was a Levi, my grandfather was a Levi." The president of Beth Jacob/Beth Israel had waited weeks before deciding if he would attend services with Berman and in fact was not present at the record setting service.
Berman had been mired in a 0 for 28 slump this past month but tied the record while on a business trip this past Monday with an aliyah at Mt. Sinai synagogue in San Diego, California. He credited getting to synagogue extra early and getting acquainted with the gabbai with helping him break out of the slump.
Berman's aliyahs have taken place all over the country and the world, the majority of which having taken place at his home synagogue Beth Jacob/Beth Israel in San Francisco, CA (357), Sons of Israel in Pittsburgh, PA (227) where he was bar-mitzvahed and Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem, Israel (69) where he spent two years in post high school advanced Jewish studies program. The complete list of Berman's aliyah locations can be found at the end of the article.
Berman celebrated the historic milestone with an elaborate Kiddush celebration of schnapps and herring. "I had a feeling today was going to be the day," said Berman. "I saw the gabbai warming up before the Torah service and I thought there was a good chance he was going to call my name." Like it or not, legitimate or not, Berman is Judaism's new aliyah king. He continues to reject any suggestion that this milestone is tainted in any way.
Barry Berman's aliyah total: Synagogue – location (total)
Beth Jacob/Beth Israel - San Francisco, CA (357)
Sons of Israel - Pittsburgh, PA (227)
Yeshiva HaKotel - Jerusalem, Israel (69)
The Western Wall – Jerusalem, Israel (18)
BSBI - Charleston, South Carolina (15)
Ohel Gershon - Jerusalem, Israel (12)
Beth El - Cherry Hill, New Jersey (8)
Baron Hirsh – Memphis Tennessee (8)
Kesher Israel – Washington, DC (7)
The Summit – Seattle, Washington (7)
Young Israel of West Hempstead - West Hempstead, Long Island (7)
Chabad at the Mandarin Oriental – Hong Kong, China (7)
Schara Tzdeck - Vancouver, Canada (5)
United Orthodox Synagogue - Houston, Texas (1)
The Great Synagogue – London, England (1)
Kemp Mill Synagogue - Silver Spring, MD (1)
Young Israel of Queens - Queens, New York (1)
Yehuda HaLavi - Jerusalem, Israel (1)
770 – Crown Heights, New York (1)
Mt. Sinai – San Diego, California (1)
Beth Jacob - Atlanta, Georgia (1)
The Jewish Center - New York, New York (1)