London Jones’ original bar mitzvah date, March 21, 2020, was at the cusp of pandemic shutdowns. Weeks before, the family saw the writing on the wall and decided to cancel the event.
Mom Karen Isenberg Jones said, “I think the cancellation of London’s original bar mitzvah hit me harder than it hit him! I was a bit in shock. Here I was just a couple weeks before the celebration having to contact all guests and vendors to let them know we are postponing.”
The Temple clergy invited London to contribute during Shabbat services via Zoom the next Shabbat, when he was joined by two others who had postponed their ceremonies. The Isenberg-Jones family were sheltering in their Blue Ridge cabin, where London read his Torah portion via Zoom with a beautiful nature backdrop.
The family postponed London’s bar mitzvah to September 2020, thinking the pandemic would conclude by fall. The virus had different plans and London’s maternal family couldn’t make it to Atlanta.
London’s grandparents had the idea of having a ceremony at their synagogue, Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, Ill., near Chicago, to attend in person. The clergy from both synagogues worked together to make it happen. London rehearsed via Zoom with Temple Jeremiah’s cantor. The family packed the car and drove to the Chicago area, where London became a bar mitzvah on Sept. 7 in front of his grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins.
Grandparents Susan and Sheldon Isenberg hosted a socially distanced backyard luncheon. “The true meaning of mitzvah: when my daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons drove to Glenview on Labor Day so my husband (83) and I (75) could attend in person,” Susan Isenberg said. “It was a day we will remember forever, and we thank G-d for that blessing.”
Karen Jones said, “It was so incredibly special for us to have a ceremony with my parents and siblings. London graciously accepted the call to the bimah twice. It was a wonderful gift to my family.”
Finally, London became a bar mitzvah at The Temple Sept. 12 with Rabbi Loren Lapidus and Cantor Deborah Hartman. Rabbi Steven Rau also had special words for London with 30 people in the sanctuary, followed by a home lunch. London’s grandmother Patricia Jones and great aunt drove from Florida. London’s uncle flew in from Boston. All three had readings during the ceremony.
London plays lacrosse, basketball, tennis and rides his bike on the Atlanta BeltLine to school, David T. Howard Middle School in the Old Fourth Ward. His mitzvah project was preparing food for the Zaban Paradies Center, where he bought and packed 120 lunches for the homeless shelter, coordinating “assembling” sessions with family and friends.
His d’var Torah focused on his parshah from Leviticus, in which he studied sacrifice and tied it into current events by noting, “People may not kill animals or burn food, but we do make sacrifices every day. My friends and I don’t have to sacrifice big things that people back then did, for which I am grateful. We may give time or money to help a cause or study for a test instead of hanging out with friends. These are some sacrifices that we all make, along with socially distancing during COVID.”
Dad David Jones reflected, “London’s bar mitzvah journey was paralleled with the tragic worldwide pandemic. This provided a poignant lesson in what it meant to become an adult. He learned patience, flexibility and charity.”
And wife Karen summarized, “The Temple made our postponed ceremony safe, special and stress free. Family participated in the ceremony live via Zoom from all over the country. Our 30 in-person guests truly felt the emotional connection to the day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when David and I gave our speeches to London.”
Temple teacher Jacqueline Morris offered, “London started late to our program, and I was impressed that he worked so hard and dedicated many hours to Hebrew learning to catch right up. He was a phenomenal student, always on top of his game. He was disappointed at the original cancellation but faced it with maturity.”
As a fun conclusion, London celebrated the recent Memorial Day weekend outside with a dance party, combined with eighth grade graduation at Knock Music House.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- B'nai Mitzvah
- London Jones
- Karen Isenberg Jones
- The Temple Atlanta
- Temple Jeremiah
- Susan and Sheldon Isenberg
- Rabbi Loren Lapidus
- Cantor Deborah Hartman
- Rabbi Steven Rau
- Patricia Jones
- David T. Howard Middle School
- bar mitzvah project
- Zaban Paradies Center
- David Jones
- Jacqueline Morris
- Blue Ridge
- Sign Greeters
- STYLE Magazine