Photos by Rachel Rover

A pandemic wasn’t going to stop Yoni and Aviva Freiden from celebrating their son, Benny’s, bar mitzvah. Thanks to their first cousin, Sarah Freiden, and her event planning company, Mazel and Merch, they were able to craft a beautifully choreographed weekend of festivities in October 2020.

“I think it’s safe to say we had one of the first bar mitzvahs in Memphis since the pandemic began back in March 2020,” said Yoni. There was hesitation at first, not knowing if their out-of-town family would be able to attend, but as the saying goes, the show must go on… and it was a wild success.

Things kicked off that Thursday night with a dinner for the guests that traveled to be there; all 27 of them. The next morning, they were treated to a delicious brunch provided by their friends, then had pictures taken at Baron Hirsch synagogue. Friday night services were held in the tent at the Doubletree followed by dinner with family and close friends, catered by Nosh-a-Rye Deli.

On Shabbat morning, everyone gathered at Baron Hirsch where Benny davened and read from the Torah. After a beautiful service, guests walked back to the hotel and enjoyed lunch in the tent. There was time for relaxing, card games and catching up!

After the conclusion of Shabbat, the Cardinals baseball-themed party began. Due to COVID protocols, they had to get creative to ensure that things were done as safely as possible. Everyone was given masks with Benny’s logo and all stayed six feet apart. Signup Genius was used so that there would only be 50 people in the tent at any given time. Guests had 15-minute slots to enjoy a fun photo booth, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a to-go box filled with pizza and falafel.

“It was definitely not the party we envisioned, but it allowed us to celebrate with our community in a safe and festive way,” Aviva explained.

Sunday morning Benny delivered his bar mitzvah speech and read a portion of the Torah via Zoom. “We were happy to have been able to virtually share this wonderful occasion with hundreds of our friends and family from around the world,” the Freidens said.

Benny also learned and completed a tractate of Talmud:Megillah with one of the Memphis Kollel Rabbis; and he chose to give a portion of his bar mitzvah money to B’nai Tzedek, an organization he enjoys being a part of.

The family was determined to carry out their plans and not postpone Benny’s bar mitzvah. Their hard work and patience certainly paid off, and it all ended up working out thanks to everyone’s willingness to think outside the box.

As Aviva says, “It was a perfect, COVID-safe bar mitzvah weekend.” That’s definitely a home run! Mazel Tov, Benny!