Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

An exploration of different Simchas that have occurred recently.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the cause of many canceled events, but in the midst of these trying times, people are uniting to celebrate in whatever way they can. These inspiring stories show that no matter what happens, caring about each other is of the utmost importance.

Zoom with the Bride and Groom

On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Mezei family had been preparing for the wedding of their daughter Dena. It was March, and many people were still figuring out how Zoom worked; hosting an event using the video conferencing platform was an intimidating prospect for them. It was Dena’s idea to use Zoom to invite her friends to see the wedding, which would now only be attended by a few close family members observing social distancing guidelines. The experience certainly wasn’t like the Mezei’s had been imagining. Walking their daughter down the aisle with everyone wearing masks and realizing this was the way the moment would be captured in photographs was a surreal and unpleasant feeling. Ultimately, however, they felt incredibly blessed to be able to celebrate this joyous occasion.

The Zoom was initially planned for a relatively small number of friends, but in the end, over 450 viewers tuned in to share in the couple’s simcha. There were so many screens full of beaming guests that it wasn’t possible for the family to greet everyone personally. The Mezei’s received many, many texts after the wedding saying mazel tov and exclaiming that this was the first time they’d gotten dressed up or worn makeup in weeks. The guests were excited not only to share in this joyous occasion but also to see each other. They even worked together to send heartwarming video messages and to say all of Tehillim for the couple.

Balcony Bar Mitzvah

Balcony Bar Mitzvah. Photo courtesy of the Bienefeld family.

With the situation in Israel changing every day, the Bienenfelds realized that their son Meir’s bar mitzvah wasn’t going to happen the way they had been planning it. It was the people in their neighborhood, Ramat Shiloh, who suggested that they make use of the balconies overlooking their street to hold a socially distanced celebration. While they were disappointed their family wouldn’t be able to join them at their home in Israel in person, some were able to attend via Zoom, with family members in New York staying up really late to make it. All of the neighbors worked together to pull it off, which made it truly special. One neighbor had a Sefer Torah, another set up a table outside and another got a microphone and speaker. One neighbor, who was a gabbai of their shul, called the bar mitzvah boy up to read from the Torah. All of the neighbors hung decorations on their balconies and bought candy to throw. It was amazing to see people coming together to celebrate.

Candles, Cars and Compassion

Under the current conditions, normal birthday parties are a thing of the past. That’s a difficult concept for little kids to accept. Introducing: the drive-by birthday! The idea is to drive by the house of the birthday boy or girl, wave hello and offer your birthday wishes from a distance.

Some local organizations in my area have decided to make these celebrations extra special. The Long Island Hero Squad uses its Facebook group to invite people to participate in drive-by birthdays. Volunteers often wear fun costumes. Children with special needs are prioritized for drive-by birthdays, which adds to the chessed being performed. Strong Island Car Parades 4 Kids has the same mission and enhances drive-by birthdays by bringing in spectacular parades of exotic cars. Its Facebook group invites people to participate no matter what car they drive.

What do these stories have in common? They all show the power of unity in this difficult time. Even when we are physically separate, we should keep looking for ways to support each other.

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Rena Max is a senior at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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