Taking your BM simcha online at Temple Israel

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Cole Rubin and family on his barmitzvah day

By Rabbi Greg Alexander

When lockdown was announced, Temple Israel had to move fast.

Not only did we have to work out how to do Shabbat services (and everything else) online, but that week we had a BMitzvah planned and more in the weeks to come. What would we say to the families?

It would be heartbreaking to cancel an event that had been planned for more than a year.  Yes, it could be postponed but they would have to learn a new Torah portion and haftarah and what about all the family and friends who were invited? And further, there was no guarantee that they would be able to hold it in 6 months or even a year given the lack of clarity in the
Coronavirus world.

In the end, some families chose to postpone and some chose to go ahead. And here is what we did.

Firstly the rabbis made a decision that everything we were doing in the physical synagogue that was possible to do online we would.  That included being called up to the Torah, leading the service, giving their droshes and even throwing sweets!  The question was how to do them.  

We met with each family online to go through how to be part of our ‘Zoom shul’.  When to unmute, stand sit, sing and more.  The parents gave their BM their tallis, blessed them and sat by their side as each one confidently led the service with our team of rabbis, layleaders and musicians.  And when it was all done, a giant community on Zoom and Facebook erupted in shouts of ‘mazal tov’, parents and siblings showered their proud BM with sweets and there was simcha, laughter and a few tears of happiness.

And there were even unexpected bonuses, like uncles and aunts in Canada or Israel being able to join and the family getting a full recording of the service to keep forever.

And what about the brochah? That is still something that even Zoom can’t solve for now, but with the pace that technology is evolving, who knows what the future holds? Watch this space.

Temple Israel www.templeisrael.co.za

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