For the love of dog: how a pet changed a rabbi’s life

Jonathan Wittenberg says his border collie has helped him in his work and at home, making him a better person and a better father

Friday evening – with the candlelit blessing of the Sabbath loaves – is a special time in the busy weekly routines of Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and his family. And while his three children, now in their 20s and studying or working away from home, can no longer always be present, one member of the household never misses the occasion.

Mitzpah, the family’s incorrigibly greedy border collie, has perfected his timing, always appearing at the table precisely as the ritual handwashing signals the breaking of his favourite challah bread. After almost 12 years at Wittenberg’s heels, Mitzpah’s apparent respect for Jewish tradition – he also proffers a friendly paw at the word shalom – is fitting. Mitzpah and the late Safi, his canine predecessor, have been “an intrinsic part of family life” and, adds Wittenberg, a “life-affirming source of companionship, comfort and love” for the past 30 years.

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