Mendel Hurwitz woke up Tuesday morning to find himself a viral sensation.
The 15-year-old son of Budapest-based Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Sholom and Devorah Leah Hurwitz, was profiled in the series premiere of “Belief”; a seven-part series produced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN television network that explores world religion.
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The episode documents Mendel’s bar mitzvah two years ago and his newfound status as an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community.
The Internet, it seems, was smitten with Mendel’s personality, charm and deep-felt commitment to his Jewish heritage. In fact, Hurwitz was the only subject whose story Oprah herself tweeted about after the premiere.
Emmy-winning American actress Uzo Aduba tweeted a quote from Mendel:
— Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba) October 19, 2015
While filmmaker Ava DuVernay noted the surprising sense of closeness and connection that could be felt with Mendel, she noted:
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) October 19, 2015
Others kvelled that Mendel was their “favorite” or as Variety’s TV editor Debra Birnbaum quipped, “My father would have loved Mendel’s story.”
Oprah Winfrey chimed in on Twitter too:
I loved the Mendel story so much because it represents right of passasge. ” bye bye to childhood”.#Belief
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) October 19, 2015
In the meantime, Mendel, who studies at the Chabad-Lubavitch Tzeirei Hashluchim yeshivah in Safed, Israel, seems to feel a deep sense of responsibility about the role he played.
Speaking with his father, Rabbi Sholom Hurwitz, Chabad.org was told that Mendel viewed the coverage as a “chance to make a positive impression about Jewish life to the world, and share the meaning he finds in Jewish life and observance.”
“I was so impressed with Mendel’s confidence and poise at the time, ” the elder Hurwitz said. “He realized that for many viewers, this may be their first look at the life of a Chassidic Jew, so he took to the role with great pride.”
By Mordechai Lightstone