Everything was coming up roses for Anna Greenberg over the festive weekend of her theater-themed bat mitzvah in mid-March. Drama was in full effect – in a good way – with the surprising mini snowstorm that blanketed the city adding gorgeous winter wonderland flair.
“We have come through a pandemic and losing loved ones, not to mention so many friends and family living out of town,” said Leah Fox-Greenberg, Anna’s mom. “We were going to celebrate this occasion no matter what!”
The celebrations began with a fried chicken Friday night dinner cooked by Anna’s aunt, Sharon Fox-O’Guin, with dessert made by cousin Elaine Schefflin. It was hosted by Anna’s parents for family and out-of-town guests at an Airbnb.
The uplifting synagogue service at Beth Sholom, which was extra special because of the pre-Purim reading of Parsha Zachor, was filled with joy. Friends and family took part in the Shabbos service, receiving honors to open the aron kodesh (ark), carry the Torahs, and participate in aliyot. Anna leined (read) maftir, shared reading the haftorah of Parsha Zachor with her dad, Shim Greenberg, and gave a d’var Torah.
“Seeing all the hard work Anna did pay off and how happy she was – it’s a day I won’t forget,” said Shim. “It was especially sweet to be a part of the haftorah with my daughter.”
As the service concluded, Anna’s parents spoke beautifully about their daughter, sharing funny memories, talking about their tight-knit family and giving Anna lovely blessings for her bright future. A delicious kiddush catered by Another Roadside Attraction followed services, with meat brought in from the famous Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. in Chicago.
For Leah, this was a particularly important milestone for her family. “It was full circle for me since I also had my bat mitzvah at Beth Sholom,” she said, “and especially meaningful since Anna wore her namesake’s tallit from my Dad, Andy Fox z”l.”
The cheer continued at Circuit Playhouse in Overton Square. All that jazz and more was in “the room where it happens” as show tunes blasted by DJ Timbo filled the venue and a dance party got underway. Photographer Elizabeth O’Guin captured all the fun. No one could stop the beat as guests enjoyed a hilarious and touching moment when Anna’s parents joined her for a rousing dance. The gold and black color scheme was on full display throughout, with dairy delights of bagels and cream cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, chocolate treats and, of course, popcorn.
Sunday brunch was held at the home of Alison and Scott Blen, hosted by the family’s dear friends – Allison and Scott, Simone and Will Coyle and Paul Engelberg.
“The room was filled with so many local family and friends, and others who traveled from all over,” said Leah. “The giving light and amazing spirit of our daughter brought so many folks together who wanted to share in our simcha. The love and support of our community always blows us away.” Season of love, indeed.
The fun and clever theater décor was intertwined throughout the weekend, with a “playbill” as the guide to the synagogue services and black and gold star hospitality bags for out-of-towners with classic cinema goodies including popcorn and candy including a Tennessee-shaped chocolate from Dinstuhl’s Fine Candies. The timing of Anna’s bat mitzvah also played into the theme, as the Purim holiday, which followed her simcha, is known for speils, feasts and all-around happiness.
“I most enjoyed having everyone I love in one place and being together to share in this day. I also loved dancing and singing with my friends,” said Anna happily. “I didn’t know how cool my party was going to be. I was shocked when I walked into the theater – Mom thought of everything!
Anna, who loves to perform in stage productions, chose a meaningful bat mitzvah project that fit with her theme: She’s raising funds all year for The Actors Fund. The program assists actors with grants so they can thrive when they’re unable to work for various reasons. The Actors Fund was instrumental during COVID, sustaining Broadway and the entire theater industry through closures for more than a year of the pandemic.
For Anna, hopefully this momentous occasion is just the beginning of her life as a cabaret. “I understand my role in the community,” said Anna, “and I was really grateful to have this ‘under my belt’ and start the next stage of my life.”