Ray Alyssa Rothman reserved a b’nai mitzvah date on the calendar three years ago at Congregation B’nai Torah for her son Sammy and daughter Becca Goldstein. She always knew she was having a double b’nai mitzvah for her younger children with them being only 16 months apart and Becca being the younger one.
Rothman noted some of the challenges she experienced with the planning. “We picked a Havdalah service to be different and more economical. When the pandemic happened, the synagogue told us that they could not promise a better date. We canceled the party and those vendors and moved forward with plans for the virtual ceremony. In our online invitation, we called the double simcha a Zoomitzvah after reading a prior article in the Atlanta Jewish Times.”
Sammy and Becca began training with in-person meetings with tutor Rebecca Cheskes, who also worked with older brother Teddy three years earlier. With the onset of the pandemic, the sessions became virtual. Becca went first with 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon; and Sammy followed with his session. B’nai Torah Assistant Rabbi Hillel Konigsburg was also part of the preparation team.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, the sanctuary was empty except for the Rothman-Goldstein family, with Rabbi Joshua Heller participating from the social hall. Over 190 family and friends joined on Zoom with their voices and images filling the room. People attended virtually from all across the United States, Israel, Brazil and Spain, making it truly a global event. After the 90-minute service, guests mingled with the family in a virtual cocktail party.
Becca and Sammy’s parshah was Chayei Sarah, recounting Sarah’s death and how “teaching us the awareness of death gives meaning and inspiration of life,” Rothman said. They spoke about their interpretation relating to strong female leaders and powerful negotiation skills.
Heller blessed the children that they carry on their mother’s resilience, and the best traits of Isaac and Rebecca. He also provided soothing comments about the drama of the past week’s election. When the prayer for the country was recited, Heller noted that the Psalm of Ascents, Psalm 121, which is often part of the Shabbat afternoon service, speaks of both anxiety and hope.
Rothman’s parents Harriet and Stan Dickman were online from Virginia Beach, Va., and recited a moving grandparent’s prayer and two other prayers. Elegant in a navy lace dress, Rothman expressed her love of Judaism and pride in Becca and Sammy and their kindness and reliance on one another, along with her hope that they continue religious practice in home and synagogue, an example that she sets.
Students at Peachtree Charter Middle School, Sammy and Becca both play soccer for the Rush Union league. For their mitzvah project, they volunteered at two fall events for the CCC (Creating Connected Communities). The group focuses on bringing programs to children in need by empowering teens to become engaged community leaders and volunteers. The siblings worked at two fall festivals last year, providing a cookie decorating station to underprivileged children. The fall festivals provide children in need with a safe, fun-filled block party, an opportunity for those who might not have this chance elsewhere. Sammy and Becca loved knowing they made even a small difference in these children’s lives. They hope to continue to work with the CCC because they saw “on a personal level that giving back to our community is an important thing to do, and we can always do more to better the world around us,” mom Rothman said.
A single mother, she planned all the details. She recalled that “it has been a long journey to get to this milestone; the whole ceremony felt perfect. It was meaningful and intimate; no complaints about doing a Zoomitzvah!”
At the end of the ceremony, many resounding “mazel tovs” were blasted on the screen.
The pre-mitzvah pictures were taken at Roswell Mill, the same location used for Teddy’s pictures. During the ceremony, 16-year-old Teddy dressed the Torah, opened the ark and recited the “Prayer for our Country.”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- B'nai Mitzvah
- Bar Mitzvah
- Bat Mitzvah
- Congregation B'nai Torah
- Ray Alyssa Rothman
- Sammy Goldstein
- Becca Goldstein
- Atlanta Jewish Times
- Rabbi Hillel Konigsburg
- Rabbi Joshua Heller
- Chayei Sarah
- Psalm of Ascents
- Psalm 121
- Peachtree Charter Middle school
- creating connected communities
- Roswell Mill