Mr. Rocha out of the blue discovered himself braving a Quebec winter, jobless, remoted and unable to talk French. After an initially rocky adjustment, he proposed to Sonia at a teahouse, hiding a $150 ring in a teacup. He mentioned he discovered a sense of goal after Sonia’s aunt, who labored in the Shaar’s kitchen, helped get him the janitor job.

He felt instantly at dwelling at the synagogue, he mentioned, and was notably drawn by the religious which means of a bar or bat mitzvah, the ceremony of passage by which a boy or lady affirms a dedication to Judaism. He would typically pause from vacuuming to sit down in the pews and pay attention, entranced, to Cantor Zelermyer’s haunting voice singing prayers.

“I am a baptized Catholic, but in a synagogue I feel a very strong connection, something talks to me,” he mentioned.

It was whereas dusting the pews and observing bar mitzvah photographers at work that the concept first entered his head that photographing bar mitzvahs was his “destiny.”

“I would see the photographers standing too close to the bar mitzvah boy, and the voice in my head would be saying: ‘No, no, no, it’s all wrong. You have God giving you this light, and you aren’t doing anything with it,’” he recalled. “But I was the janitor, so I kept dusting.”

Then got here the bris epiphany.

The grandmother was so delighted with the ensuing moody, cinematic pictures that she paid him $130 for the job, an enchancment on his $10-an-hour janitor wage.

Emboldened, Mr. Rocha requested the synagogue’s administration if he may shoot different occasions. Within two years, he was photographing weddings and bar mitzvahs, for as a lot as $8,000, and, for a whereas, altering afterward into his janitor’s uniform to clean bathrooms. Sometimes he labored such lengthy days he slept on a synagogue pew.

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