It’s hard to rank all of the sad and debilitating experiences during this pandemic, except for the one that is at the very top of my list: my plan to organize and host Steve’s and my granddaughters for their B’Not Mitzvah.
It had been in the planning for well over three years. We were so excited by the amazing possibilities of the strength in our numbers as the blended family of Silks and Roots. We were to meet here in Pittsburgh on Labor Day weekend, 200 strong, to celebrate Naomi Beverly Linera and Maya Elizabeth Silk. But, as the virus would have it, by June it became clear that there was no way to safely hold any kind of live in-person event.
I won’t dwell on all of the bad news around the cancellation, like that I am still in serious negotiation with the Ace Hotel over a huge deposit they are unwilling to refund or that I haven’t been eyeball to eyeball with the girls for almost a year, things that make me first really sad and then very, very angry. Instead, I’m going to give you the overview in list form, of what it takes to transform to virtual with panache!
- Envision an alternative that the girls can get their arms around.
- Create a theme that relates to their Torah portion and use it to keep Jewish education as the focus.
- Engage with the tutor and the spiritual advisor to adjust the learning requirements.
- Instead of cancelling the DJ, transfer him to twitch.
- Find and hire a technical advisor and learn all you can.
- Create online invitations, a website, internet tools that explain and support a virtual event.
- Create a participation package for each guest that engages them to support the girls virtually.
- Create pre and post virtual events for the extended family.
- Encourage early gift giving to increase the event’s normalcy.
- Include all of the events, virtually of course, that would have happened, like a Shabbat Dinner, Family practices of Aliyot, and Havdalah.
- Ahead of the date, send written materials to all participants that replace the prayer book and help them engage in the service.
- Create special souvenirs for the guests to remember the event.
- Take advantage of Zoom Record to document the celebration.
Looking at the above list doesn’t quite tell the story. For each of the 12 items listed above, I could easily write a page or two or three. Suffice is to say, having this experience under my belt, I am well equipped to offer helpful advice to any of you who finds themselves in charge of virtual alternatives to previously planned live family events. This is truly one of those times, when you have lemons, your only choice is to make lemonade!
Instead of singling out a couple of photographs that tell the story, I have included this link to the final recording for you to view as you like.