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Rabbi Kenneth D. Roseman

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Jeff Erlanger in his electric wheelchair reading Torah from the pulpit

Of all the b’nei mitzvah I’ve led in my 57 years as a rabbi, the one that has remained most vivid in my memory is the bar mitzvah of Jeffrey Erlanger, the boy who gained national attention when he appeared as a guest on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and more recently in the film, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

I was the rabbi at Temple Beth El in Madison, WI, in 1983, when Jeff’s parents, Howie and Pam Erlanger, began to discuss Jeff’s bar mitzvah with me. Everyone knew Jeff. Though he had a tumor in his spinal cord in infancy that left his body with severely limited mobility, he zipped...

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