“My Bat Mitzvah” By Alexandra Weinstein

Written by plumtree

Topics: 2021-22 School Year

It was time to do my daily chore, retrieving the mail. I opened the mailbox and took out all of the letters and packages. The driveway was damp because it had rained the day before. The smell of barbeque and freshly cut grass filled my nostrils. It was a stereotypical June evening. I opened the door and wiped my feet on the door mat. Suddenly something caught my eye. It was a letter addressed to me from Temple Sinai.

“Mom! I got a letter from the Temple,” I yelled down the hall. Mom pushed her glasses further up her nose and came swiftly into the mudroom with Dad. She looked at the letter with curiosity and then smiled and said, “I think I know what this is Annie you can open it.” I carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the neatly written letter. Almost immediately I knew what the letter was about. It was my Bat Mitzvah date, January 17 2021. On that day, I would be considered an adult in the Jewish community. I continued to read the letter and felt a wave of excitement until I read the last few sentences. Suddenly I felt sad and confused. It read,

“Unfortunately, because of high cases of Coronavirus, all services will be fully online or rescheduled. This is for everyone’s safety and comfort. We are as disappointed as you are, but hope that it does not stop you from making memories, signed; Rabbi Joseph,” I read those words over and over again. I saw this coming, everything has been online lately.

A b’nai mitzvah is about spirituality and I have to experience it online! For the past 4 years I’ve been attending weekly classes and spent hours and hours in tutoring preparing for this one day. Now, because of COVID this experience will be shared across a computer screen instead of in person! Many people might think this is my lucky break, that a laggy connection could mask mistakes. Yet for me a b’nai mitzvah meant lot! I hugged my parents and in a shaky voice said, “It is gonna be virtual,” Mom and Dad patted my back and soothed me with their gentle, soft voices.

Later that night, I tried to sleep but the thoughts of having one of the most important moments in my life online filled me with sorrow. I mean, who knows if they will even join the video call. I know for a fact that Grandma can never log into anything online. Don’t even get me started with Uncle Wall. What about my party? Will people come to it, or are the Covid cases so bad that people won’t want to travel? Will we even have a form of celebration? A B’nai mitzvah is about community and getting together. How am I supposed to do that when I am doing my mitzvah online?

Six months later the big day was here. I had practiced and studied so hard that I knew my Torah portion like the back of my hand. Even though it was just my family in our living room, Mom and I had chosen a beautiful dress that made me look like a winter fairy. I was so nervous that the sweat dripping down my forehead would not stop no matter how many times I wiped it. The tick of the clock was almost driving me insane as I waited for my time to start the zoom. Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick. “Deep breathes Annie,” I kept telling myself. Then the video call started and people began to join.

Aunt Bethy was unmuted and loudly eating crackers, my friend, June, looked so bored that she could fall asleep right then and there, and Grandpa’s camera was positioned on only his couch arm. I was about to cry as I started reciting my torah portion, then something amazing happened. I felt something change inside me. I began to feel more and more connected to all the little faces on the screen in front of me. They were there, listening and supporting me. I was welcomed into my community.

An hour later, we were towards the end of the service and it was time for my speech. I had written my speech many months ago with a different mindset but after this service I decided to do something unheard of. I made the decision right then and there to scrap my speech entirely and instead speak from my heart. When writing my speech, I had been so focused on how unfortunate I was to have my bat mitzvah online. But feeling this spark during the service ignited a flame in my heart, causing me to rethink how my bat mitzvah is not about whether it is virtual or in person but rather that the connection between God, my family and community can happen no matter what the obstacles may be.

My speech didn’t happen as planned, just like this virtual Bat Mitzvah. When I finished I could see everyone clapping and when the zoom ended Mom and Dad hugged me tight. A Covid bat mitzvah seemed horrible at first but now I know that either way I could feel connected to my community even on a screen.   



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