A Borehamwood teenager had a virtual barmitzvah streamed on social media after shuls closed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Naftali Arden, who recently turned 13, was set to celebrate his barmitzvah with a party inspired by the hit series Friends featuring a foosball table – a nod to the iconic show – as well as music and dancing.
The Arden family, who initially postponed the celebrations last weekend, were expecting over 160 guests, including relatives travelling from the United States and Israel.
But while the party was pushed back indefinitely, a ceremony was held online on Thursday using a webcam. Rabbi Alex Chapper, of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, tuned in remotely.
BES is delighted to invite you to join our first-ever Virtual Bar Mitzvah.Mazel Tov to Naftali and the Arden family ????Tune in to celebrate with us!
פורסם על ידי Borehamwood Shul ב- יום חמישי, 19 במרץ 2020
“Last night was so much more special than we could have ever imagined it would be,” Naftali’s mum Tania told Jewish News on Friday.
The 42 year-old bookkeeper and private tutor added: “After we actually did it and I looked at my WhatsApp messages, we saw the astonishing number of people who watched the feed online. As of this morning it’s around 5,000.
“I looked at the messages, I was completely overwhelmed. People were wishing us mazel tov, and said it had really moved them. Quite a few of my friends said they cried. I had a little cry afterwards.
“I really really hope that people will be able to do something similar and hopefully personalise it somewhat … I’m really really proud to have been a guinea pig for this. It was astonishingly meaningful and wonderful, and we’ll have it forever, which is superb.”
Virtual simchas could be a chance for members of the community, who may be feeling disconnected, to get together during the pandemic.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Naftali, who according to his mum didn’t “seem remotely phased” by the prospect of having a virtual barmitzvah, said marking the milestone online could inspire others to do the same.
“My grandparents must have felt so rubbish and horrible that they couldn’t hear me leining and it was cancelled but we found a way that they could,” he said on Thursday.
“It feels really important because it means a lot of people are going to see things that go on in the world and maybe use the ideas for themselves, and my mum’s got the headmistress to watch as well,’ he added.