Chaya Engle first met the Schuler twins, Dov and Emmet, when they moved to Pittsburgh in 2011, 4-year-old boys touring Yeshiva Schools with their mother, Amy. Almost at once, her mind flash-forwarded to their b’nai mitzvah.
“I remember when they moved here,” said Engle, who has a set of twin boys herself, Aron and Menachem. “My kids were in kindergarten. And I remember meeting the Schulers in the hall, and talking about their birthday. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to be the same bar mitzvah as my boys. I thought of it right away.
They were two days apart, and I thought, ‘We are going to have to share bar mitzvahs. They are going to have the same parsha.’”
Nine years later, that is exactly what came to pass on Feb. 15, 2020 (Shevat 20, 5780), parashat Yitro. And the celebration of two sets of twins coming of age together in the Jewish community was one to remember.
“It was amazing,” said Engle. “The energy in shul was like Simchat Torah because each boy had an aliyah and read their portion, and after each boy read, they danced and circled the bima with all this energy. And then the rabbi gave his speech, called them up to give them their gift, shook their hands, and as each one stepped down, the entire shul stood up and danced with them again. It was so much fun and they all did their parts beautifully.”
The service and celebratory kiddush took place at Chabad of Pittsburgh on Wightman Street. It was the first time in Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld’s memory that two sets of twins became b’nai mitzvah there on the same day.
“It was really a very beautiful event,” said Rosenfeld, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Pittsburgh.
The festive atmosphere was amplified by the exuberant dancing, the boys being carried around on men’s shoulders, and loads of candy thrown on the bima after each boy did his part. The guests numbered in the hundreds, and came from all corners of Jewish Pittsburgh.
“So many parts of the community coming together was unbelievable,” said Rosenfeld. “It was a unifying event in a very happy manner. Unfortunately, over the last several years we have had unfortunate occasions bringing people together. This was really a very exciting opportunity to have so many people together for a beautiful, happy occasion.”
Rosenfeld also was moved by the graciousness in which the boys shared the day with each other.
“Usually a bar mitzvah boy has the day to himself,” he said. “This is his day in the light, his day to shine. But the beauty about these boys is they were able to, in such a beautiful manner, share with one another and everybody shone in their own way. Each one was happy for the other one. Each one took part in reading from the Torah, each one had his own part and also was excited with the other ones reading and the other ones taking their part. It was so beautiful to watch.”
The preparation for the big day also proceeded smoothly, with no discord between the boys when divvying up the parts of the service at the first meeting with their tutor, Rabbi Meir Goldwasser, a year ago.
“All the parents, the four boys and the rabbi met,” recalled Amy Schuler. “We sat down at the table at Yeshiva and the boys decided what they each would do. They all came together, and it was a real amicable meeting.”
“No one knew what to expect,” she said. “Rabbi Goldwasser laid it out — there are seven parts to read, plus the fact that the last one has a little bit more, and then there is the Haftorah. And within minutes, one boy wanted to go first so he got (aliyahs) one and two. My son wanted to have the smallest part, so he got three and four. My other son only wanted to do the Ten Commandments, so he got five and six. The last boy wanted to do the Haftorah, so he got seven, the maftir and the Haftorah. And within five minutes, everything was assigned, everyone was happy.”
With so many guests in attendance at the event, the energy in the room was palpable, Engle said.
“It was just so beautiful how many people came to celebrate this. It was like a community celebration. I never felt such togetherness.” pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at