Cuyahoga County Executive
Rabbi Armond E. Cohen and Rev. Eli Levy, key figures in the history of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike, played critical roles in the bar mitzvah of Armond Budish, a Beachwood resident in his second year as Cuyahoga County Executive.
Budish studied hard for his 1966 bar mitzvah, turning 13 that June 2. He recalls looking forward to the event at Park Synagogue, which at the time existed only in Cleveland Heights.
“It was part of my education, part of my progress as a Jewish youth,” says Budish. His parents were proud of him; so were his three younger siblings.
Budish doesn’t recall much about the event other than that it was a “triple,” because “back then, the synagogue had lots of kids and limited dates.”
Cohen, who led Ohio’s largest Conservative congregation for decades, officiated, preparing students in class and individually. Cohen died in 2007.
But it was Levy, Park Synagogue’s ritual director from 1961 to 1997, who most helped Budish navigate his way smoothly through the ceremony.
“I studied for it, no question about that,” Budish says. “Rev. Eli Levy – he was known as the reverend – was the person who prepared me and all the other kids at Park at that time.”
It seems that Levy, who gave bar or bat mitzvah lessons to more than 3,000 boys, girls and adults from Park Synagogue, had no qualms about using technology that was state-of-the-art for its time, though Budish can’t quite remember the exact device.
“I forget whether it was a tape recording or little record that he had given us, with not only reading material but something to listen to so we would be better prepared,” Budish says. “He was old-school; he sang a portion on it, he chanted the portion on whatever it was, a tape or record, so we could hear how it was supposed to sound.”
Levy died in 2013.
There was a party at the synagogue following the service. Budish recalls he had fun, but what stands out in his memory is a candle-lighting ceremony.
“It went well,” he says.
This article appeared in the Fall / Winter 2016 issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah.