Micro Mitzvah Celebration During The Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Plan a Micro Bat Mitzvah with Social Distancing – Everything You Need to Know

How to Plan a Micro Bat Mitzvah with Social Distancing – Everything You Need to Know

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs of 2020 will never be forgotten. From virtual services to drive-by parades, Jewish families are finding new and meaningful ways to celebrate their simchas in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. As cities across the country begin to slowly “open up,” parents are finding creative ways to stage smaller, socially distant celebrations. 

Following is the first hand account of St. Louis Mitzvah Mom Suzanne Epstein-Lang on her daughter Annabelle’s re-imagined Mitzvah celebration:

I found a way to “go big or go home” on a virtual service and micro Bat Mitzvah party! The most meaningful part, of course, was the service but we also had a series of memorable, micro celebrations.

Annabelle had been dreaming of her Bat Mitzvah party theme for a decade – a play on Disney’s “It’s A Small World” had morphed over time into a vintage, steampunk travel party with a hot air balloon logo.

Our original Mitzvah plans were to kick of with a Mediterranean Shabbat Dinner, followed by a Havdallah ceremony at our synagogue. We had reserved a hospitality suite at the hotel for our guests with a “Passage to India” theme. Vintage trolleys had been hired to whisk kids from the service to the reception, at our country club, for dancing and adventurous eats from each continent. Sunday brunch would have been at the hotel which has a lovely ballroom. 

Letting Go Of What Was “Supposed” To Be

I am not going to sugar-coat this part: the first thing we had to do was grieve for what was not going to happen. Our Bat Mitzvah girl Annabelle took it in stride while I struggled. I mostly got over it and got to work. The first and most important call was to the synagogue. It was early March so the clergy was not ready to commit to going forward, canceling, Zooming, opening the doors, or anything else. We decided, however, that no matter what, we were going to proceed religiously in some way on our scheduled date. We knew that we would be loved and supported by the shul and the one thing I never doubted was that our rabbis and tutor would make that happen (and they did). We just didn’t know what it would look like yet.

We already had invitations, photography, floral, videography, entertainment, flipbooks, swag and large decor booked, so throughout the month of April I was in contact with our many vendors. Eventually, I took a hard look at what deposits we had, what we arranged on handshakes, what we already paid in full, and what would even make sense to still use in the future if we were having a party only later (for instance, we would no longer need printed yarmulkes or transportation from the service).

By May 20th, when our city announced what phase one would include, I fully pivoted to the new plan– leaving me three weeks to execute something different! At this point the rabbis said we had the go ahead on the Zoom and that they would run it, though they would not be there physically.

Three Weeks To Plan Our “Micro” Mitzvah

Annabelle’s service was held on her original date in June, in our backyard. Technically it was a Zoom between our family and the rabbis that was broadcast over YouTube. We were absolutely committed to having the event outside so that Annabelle’s grandparents could be with us in person. 

Simply put: Our daughter became a Bat Mitzvah and it was what we hoped–authentic and ethical. A small group gathered under a beautifully decorated tent. Thanks to our young Rabbi Daniel’s detailed knowledge of technology/broadcasting paired with our amazing on-site tech person, we were broadcast to 300 living rooms and at least two poolsides we know of! The coolest part was having the prayers loaded onto the screen and integrating pre-recorded video from family members. For those watching at home, there was great production value because of the special videos and slides, while those of us standing by just got a look at our sweet girl doing what she was prepared to do– lead us in a real service.

When the service was over we were surprised that the synagogue had a virtual aufruff for us. We had no idea! Then it was off to meet the trolleys that were initially intended to take us to the party. Instead, we were joined by 10 of Annabelle’s closest friends for a candy crawl! We stopped at five locations staffed by friends, passing out candy from different continents. The route was perfectly timed and got us back to the park exactly one hour and 15 minutes later (given the 5 minutes it took to load on the front end, it literally was around the world in 80 minutes).

The family headed back to our backyard, which had been flipped for dinner. We enjoyed a nice night under the stars and the sunset provided a much needed cool-down. Annabelle changed clothes and it was just like the most relaxing backyard barbecue we ever had.

Our neighbors stayed out in the yard with us the whole time. It took every bit of my strength not to have some family friends come over after dinner for drinks as well. We just knew that it was all or nothing on the friends, and if we invited everyone we’d have a hundred people. Since we firmly believe we should not be doing at this time, we had no additional friends. This was the only hard part for me–everything else was just perfect!

Looking Back

We could have held a Zoom mitzvah for free (provided you have an existing computer and internet connection) and call it a day, but in this house we celebrate big and we honor our commitments. It is our yin and yang–beauty and detail that some may find silly, but all mixed up with old fashioned simple values about kindness and honoring our word.

The result was that we got our big day, small-style, and helped many small businesses with whom we already had an arrangement. We think the whole thing was real, beautiful, ethical, and authentic.

Everything was so great, in fact, that I don’t know that we should even taint it with another celebration. At the moment we have outstanding deposits for DJ, flip books paid in full, videography paid in full, a deposit on a trolley from a different company, and a deposit on the ballroom that was supposed to be for Sunday brunch. It would be totally possible to throw a small party given all of these things, or we could reschedule the big party, but in some ways I kind of feel like that almost takes away from the beautiful moments that we had on Saturday. I am looking into ways to schedule something special with the camp friends which is the only huge missing piece at this time.

Mitzvah Advice

If you are on the fence (and if you are in a part of the country where you can have even 20 to 30 people in masks at a safe distance), I would say do it! Small is the new big! Celebrate now and fully!

Vendor Directory

The Lang family worked with the following Vendors for their originally planned celebration as well as the micro party that was held in June. If you contact them, please let them know you read about their services on Mitzvah Market.com. 

Invitations: M. Haley Design, 636-352-2102
Food Truck for At-Home Celebration: Wok and Roll STL, 314-724-3424
Bar Cart: Tipsy Pony Party Bar, 314-322-1812
Caterer for At-Home Sunday Brunch: J David Events, 314-323-6538
Event Decor: Decorum, 314-447-4000
Event Planning: Simcha’s Events, 314-458-5463
Photographer: L Photographie, 314-449-8124
Videographer: Westview Media, 314-726-622
Florist: Thorn Studio, 314-808-0706
Face Masks: BowlingShirt.com, 800-444-1685
Swag: Pillsbury Marketing, 314-997-6666
Trolley: St. Louis Carriage and Trolley, 314-621-3334
Hair and Makeup: Malorie Harris, 314-265-7542
Tech/Editing Services: Videocakes Productions, 314-709-7626
International Candy: Global Foods Market, 314-835-1112, Cost Plus World Market, 314-918-7800
Service: Originally to be held at Central Reform Congregation
Shabbat Dinner: Originally planned at Parker’s Table Wine, 314-645-2050
Reception Venue: Originally planned at Westwood Country Club
Hotel/Hospitality Suite/Sunday Brunch: Originally planned at The Cheshire Inn, 314-647-7300
Music/DJ: Originally booked with Utopia Entertainment, 636-532-2777
Flipbooks: Originally booked with Flipping Good Times, 573-437-4577

For more information on planning a Micro Mitzvah in your area, join one of Mitzvah Market’s 17 regional Facebook Groups where thousands of parents are discussing how to modify celebrations to meet social distancing requirements in their area.

Posted in Mitzvah Ideas, Misc., Mitzvah Advice