Better late than never has been the trend this year, with COVID-19 forcing many bar and bat mitzvah celebrations to be delayed. That was the case with Meredith Epstein, who was supposed to celebrate her bat mitzvah in January 2021. But, with some smart changes, Meredith was finally called to the Torah in September 2021 at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Due to COVID, we held a beautiful Shabbos dinner in our backyard,” explained Jonathan Epstein, Meredith’s dad. “And we held a kiddush lunch with boxed lunches in a tent in our backyard for about 80 people – out-of-town guests, family and Meredith’s friends.”
During the Sabbath service at the synagogue, Meredith had her work cut out for her, which she handled with grace. She davened Shacharit and Hallel, because it was Chol Hamoed Sukkot, leined (read) two aliyot and the Haftorah, davened Mussaf and shared a wonderful D’var Torah that her parents heard for the first time that morning. Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Sarit Horwitz taught Meredith the davening with Hallel and helped with her D’var Torah, while Dr. David Moinester taught her Torah and Haftorah leining.
“I wasn’t prepared for the moment I started my davening the morning of my bat mitzvah – I looked up and saw everyone, and it was an amazing feeling. I replay that moment in my head, and it makes me smile and cry at the same time,” said Meredith. “It was an amazing sense of accomplishment – to know that I worked so hard and was able to learn and lead the services – and know now I can do it again.”
“It was incredible to see how hard Meredith worked and how much she enjoyed the process of learning,” added Jonathan. “Listening to her lead the service was an almost indescribable feeling of joy and amazement.”
Though COVID made planning more complicated and with a smaller guest list for safety, celebrations continued throughout the festive weekend with a party Saturday night at the Grand Carousel Pavilion at the Children’s Museum and a Sunday morning brunch at the Epstein’s home. The Epsteins certainly missed family and friends who weren’t comfortable traveling from out of town, but they still made the most of the milestone occasion.
“It was very special getting to see all my friends and family together in the same place to celebrate –especially after not seeing so many of them during COVID,” said Meredith. “I also loved having so many of my friends from Camp Sabra – which is my second home – who don’t live in Memphis come in to celebrate with me.”
“Meredith’s bat mitzvah was something we had been looking forward to for a really long time,” added Leslie, Meredith’s mom. “Seeing her celebrate such a special simcha with her closest family and friends was wonderful. It was such a special weekend.”
Brunch catering: Jonathan’s sister and family friends
Party Planning and Décor: Eventful Party Planning
Flowers: L&Jay Productions
Balloons: Pop Culture Memphis
Linens: Elegant Chair
Cake cups: Sweet on Cakes
DJ: Josh Wurzburg