2020 | Coronavirus Chronicles

Coronavirus Chronicles: Celebrating a rite of passage on Zoom

‘Though my father survived, his parents died in a concentration camp. My father’s granddaughter proudly sang her Haftorah verses to the 100 virtual attendees at her bat mitzvah.’

A screenshot of the Zoom ceremony

From Liat Katz

(Editor’s note: This essay is part of Bethesda Beat’s Coronavirus Chronicles personal essay series. Visit the submission page to learn more.)

A Zoom bat mitzvah probably wasn’t what the ancient Israelites had in mind, but the coronavirus threw us, and our carefully planned event, for a loop.

My daughter, Aviva, had studied with a tutor for close to a year. We’d planned the party — complete with DJ, caterers and an event space — on a budget we could barely handle.

When we were ordered to stay at home, our rabbi suggested we hold the service and party over Zoom.

I was skeptical that a virtual celebration would maintain the sacredness of the service. Aviva, though, immediately accepted the proposition.

The pandemic put my daughter in touch with the adversities Jewish people have faced for thousands of years. As the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, she’d heard about some of these experiences.

Though my father survived, his parents died in a concentration camp. My father’s granddaughter proudly sang her Haftorah verses to the 100 virtual attendees at her bat mitzvah.

My daughter is used to nontraditional approaches to life. Her parents are a same-sex couple. She has struggled through endless corrections and explanations to teachers and friends, who assumed the heteronormative status of her family.

And, as the rabbi mentioned in his sermon during my daughter’s bat mitzvah: “When you were born, your parents could not even legally marry.”

In the end, the service was lovely, and having it online means we have a keepsake recording.

Liat Katz is a clinical social worker and writer who lives in Rockville.


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