Coming of Age: From Auckland to Ossining – Bar Mitzvah Tutor Takes His Brand Overseas and Back?

By Jon Chattman

As a tutor and teacher, Gary Chattman has given nearly 300 bar or bat mitzvahs, most of which have been throughout Westchester County and the Tristate area.

The coming of age ceremony in Judaism is naturally a special occasion, but there are certain times in which Chattman takes it up a notch – rises to the occasion if you will.

There was that time he gave the very first Bar Mitzvah on Ellis Island in 2008, and come July 14, he’ll be watching fondly as Colden Sapir, a student under his tutelage for the past year, celebrates his life-altering, special day. Ironically, this Bar Mitzvah marks a first for Chattman.

The occasion, which will be held at the Scarborough Manor Clubhouse in Ossining, will be the very first time he meets young Colden.

Chattman has been tutoring Colden via FaceTime from his home in Auckland, New Zealand. “On so many levels, this is going to be a very unique day,” said Chattman.

Unorthodox bar and bat mitzvah tutoring has been in Chattman’s wheelhouse ever since he started teaching in the 1970’s.

His unique service finds the child serving as rabbi/cantor. Chattman will accompany the Bar Mitzvah on his keyboard. Colden plays the ukulele, and will accompany his congregation in the special Jewish songs and prayers.

This ceremony will mark the culmination of the spiritual and personal connection made between student and teacher.

Chattman and Colden became a tag-team last spring thanks to a chance encounter. Colden’s grandfather Dan Sapir of Ossining attended one of Chattman’s ceremonies.

Don Sapir contacted Chattman and asked him if he would be possible for Chattman to help tutor/teach his grandson about Judaism – and to prepare him for a Bar Mitzvah service.

He has, and he has also engaged Colden’s 11-year-old brother, Clay to participate, as well as teach his younger, eight-year-old sister Marin, piano.

This highly-motivational program is beneficial for Colden’s whole extended family from New Zealand and from America. Because of the unique proactive co-operation of Colden’s parents, Matt and Sonya – from New Zealand – this special service will take place.

At its conclusion, the culmination of this huge amount of dedication, in the eyes of Judaism, Colden will become a man. And Gary Chattman and Colden Sapir have put together as service that transcends traditional Bar Mitzvah – on so many levels.

Chattman is a retired New York City teacher and administrator, as well as a college professor, piano teacher and concert pianist, and author of nine published books. Through the years, he has guided many hundreds of children to have identity in their faith.