Photos by Paige Miller Photography

What happens when the guest list for your bar mitzvah ceremony nearly doubles on the day of the occasion?

Ari Taub had been studying and practicing with his rabbi for an April 18, 2020, bar mitzvah long before the pandemic began. And a coronavirus outbreak wasn’t going to stop this young man and his family from celebrating his simcha.

Parents Marc and Elissa Taub realized, as the time drew nearer, that they needed a Plan B. “It became obvious about three months out that things weren’t going to go as planned,” said Marc. “At first, we thought we’d just have a smaller group as guests started sending their regrets.

“There was never a question that we’d postpone this memorable occasion,” Marc continued. “Two of Ari’s grandparents were not in good health. (Ari’s paternal grandfather passed away soon after the simcha), and we wanted them to share in this joyous celebration.

“Throughout history, through the worst of times these events [weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.] have still happened,” he said. “Even during the Holocaust people found a way. There was a spiritual core surrounding the occasion and we would not consider postponing.”

It soon became clear that this bar mitzvah service would look different than any Rabbi Bess Wohlner of Temple Israel in Memphis had participated in before. Rabbi Bess began researching how other rabbis that she knew were preparing online bar mitzvahs, and the preparations began. They began practicing online, and Temple Israel Education Administrator Jackie Evans started working out all of the technical issues. Temple delivered a Torah and temporary podium to the Taub’s home.

When Ari signed into the Zoom event to begin the Saturday morning service, there were around 300 people watching from all around the world.

“It was actually a little easier to say all of the prayers in front of everyone on the computer than it might have been in person,” said Ari. “Although, without the Rabbi standing there helping me through my Torah portion, I had to kind of guide myself.

According to the whole family, the day became even more meaningful than if they’d had held the service in the sanctuary.

“Originally we would have had about 160 people guests in the sanctuary,” said Marc. “But because Ari’s bar mitzvah was online, we had people join us from all over the world. There were colleagues in Israel, India, South Africa and other places. And since Ari plays competitive baseball, many of his team members joined us – some who may not have not come in person.”

“It was nice to see people from all around the country in New York and California, especially my grandparents who couldn’t be here with us in person,” said Ari. “I still got to talk to people after the service,” he continued.

While many families have a luncheon following the service and a large party the same evening, it is a Taub family tradition to serve brunch after the service, host a dinner at their home and then take a family trip in celebration of the simcha. On the day we spoke, the family would have been returning from an overseas trip.

While things were quiet around the Taub household that Saturday evening, they, their family and friends, will look back on April 18, 2020, with many unique and special memories.