The barmitzvah boy who needs three wise men for Christmas

By Jennifer Lipman, December 13, 2011
Joe Gabriel

Joe Gabriel

One of the last Jewish families in Exeter is in need of a Christmas miracle involving three wise men – to help form a minyan.

The men are needed on December 25, not at a manger but at the home of Dr Norman and Gina Gabriel, whose son Joe is to be barmitzvah.

The ceremony will be held at their home rather than a shul because Exeter S ynagogue is unable to open for the occasion for insurance reasons.

The Jewish community of Exeter dates back more than 250 years, but minyanim are a rare sight there now and the Gabriels believe that they are the only actively Jewish family around. Joe has been taught his barmitzvah portion by Skype by Brighton-based Chabad Rabbi Zalman Lewis.

Rabbi Lewis and Brighton Chabad director Rabbi Pesach Efune are planning to drive a six-hour round trip in order to officiate at the ceremony, as they did 13 years ago for the brit. Joe's uncle is driving down from Manchester with enough kosher food for the party. But with a dearth of Jewish men in Exeter to form a minyan, their efforts could all be in vain.

"So far we have seven Jewish men," said Mrs Gabriel. "We need three more."

Their search for ten men has introduced them to a former Israeli fighter pilot living nearby and a 97-year-old Exeter resident, both of whom are set to be there for Joe's big day.

Mrs Gabriel said a barmitzvah would be great for Joe. "Since Rabbi Lewis has been teaching him he has been a massive positive influence. It would be so good for his positive Jewish identity.

"If anyone can come, they would be more than welcome," she added. "Hopefully we'll get a minyan and it will be a memorable occasion."

Gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh included – are not necessary.

If you would like to help make a minyan, please email Joe via

Last updated: 1:10pm, December 15 2011