I have mixed feelings about this story.
While I salute the idea of reasserting a Jewish presence, and reaffirming the fact that Jews remain though our enemies try time and time again to destroy us, I don't feel that 'outreach' to graveyard communities is worthwhile.
What is very pertinent, hauntingly so, is that the parsha (Torah portion) was Bal'am.
"Torah chanting had not echoed from the synagogue's walls 75 years
until Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah, which opened with the singing of Ma Tovu.
Rabbi David Holz, the Wisnik family’s rabbi from Westchester County, led
the service, accompanying the songs with a guitar."
(Whatever, I have no time for hippie Rabbis...)\
"The words of Ma Tovu are from the Book of Numbers. The prophet
Balaam, instead of cursing the Israelites as the Moabite king, Balak,
commissioned him to do, brings forth God’s blessing for Israel: How
lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel."
"These words, turning an intended curse into a blessing, were at the
core of Jacob’s Torah reading. Using a silver pointer to read in Hebrew
from the scroll, Jacob chanted: Ma tovu ohleh-cha, Yaacov, mishk’notecha
Thoughts on Bal'am:
"Balaam, on the other hand, is a sadistic
misanthrope. He advocates the destruction of an entire people. Perhaps
this position is intimated by his name Balaam - Bli Am, "without a
people." He is an individual, a hired gun, or mouth, as the case may
be, who is willing to advise and help implement a genocide if the price
is right. Morality is of no concern. He is the ultimate individual.
"Evil eye, arrogant spirit, and greedy soul" (Avot 5:19) are his lot.
There is no room in his world view for others."
"The sad part of the story is that there
were people - in the thousands - who were indeed enticed, and fell into
the trap of Balaam and his henchmen."
"The message of this Torah portion is the reminder that no matter how
many times in history people plotted the destruction of the Jewish
people, God stood by our sides, and frustrated their plans. When we
remain a unified nation, all working toward a common goal, but retaining
individuality, and holiness, we know that no nation, no magic, no
curses can harm us."
"How good are your tents oh Jacob, and your sanctuaries oh Israel."