When a pandemic interrupts the original plans for your bat mitzvah, what’s a girl to do? In Katie Gruber’s case, the decision was to move forward and make it happen. During the summer as they learned what the limitations would be, parents Brandi and Greg gave their daughter the option of changing the date or keeping the one they had already scheduled.

“Katie chose October 10, since it was her 13th birthday,” said Brandi.

“We quickly moved to plan B,” said Einat Loskovitz of Eventful Party Planning who helped the family scale to an intimate celebration with family and close friends.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. Shades of pink, Katie’s favorite color, were included in all the details. She picked everything out and was so excited to see it all come to fruition that morning. The service was moved from the sanctuary to the outdoor atrium at Temple Israel, which allowed for a safer environment. There was a hand sanitizer station and face masks for all with Katie’s logo – in pink, of course!

“Out-of-town family was unable to attend, and family members were not allowed to participate in the service, but we were happy that we were able to have close family there with us,” Brandi explained.

While Einat Loskovitz with Eventful Party Planning helped pull things together, Paige Miller Photography was on hand to capture the moment and Holliday Flowers and Events created the flower displays. It all turned out wonderfully.

Katie’s Torah portion was Sh’mini Atzeret, and she was able to craft a D’var Torah that could not have been more relevant to the situation the world is currently in. She discussed, “Just as Moses led the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, our scientists, leaders, healthcare workers, and first responders are leading us out of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Just as they trusted Moses for leadership, I trust my parents to keep me safe and my teachers to provide a safe learning environment. In the beginning of the world, it was chaos and dark. Sound familiar? We, too, will go from chaos and anxiety to certainty and calm.” Her words created a meaningful connection to her Jewishness and life today.

Due to the pandemic, Katie was not able to do a mitzvah project, so instead she chose to make a donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. She also decided to go on a vacation in lieu of having a party.

“We will take a family trip once we are on the other side of the virus” Brandi said. “We have not picked a destination yet, but Katie has a few places in mind.” They are very much looking forward to being able to enjoy that quality time together.

Planning for a bat mitzvah in normal times can be stressful and requires a lot of preparation and dedication. Adding a pandemic to the mix isn’t something anyone is ready for, but the Gruber family stood their ground and worked with the cards they were dealt.

“Greg and I are very proud of Katie, even more so because of the way she faced the challenges that were thrown her way due to the pandemic,” said Brandi. “She started with tutoring for her Torah portion in January with a local tutor in Little Rock [where they live]. But as the pandemic came, she switched to zoom study sessions. She never lost a step, and we are blessed to have her as our daughter.”