First United Synagogue online barmitzvah attracts a worldwide audience

Barmitzvah boy tells Facebook audience to dress appropriately: 'No fluffy slippers and absolutely no Arsenal dressing gowns'



Demonstrating that Jewish life will continue during the coronavirus crisis, the first United Synagogue livestreamed barmitzvah was held last night.

The barmitzvah boy, Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue member Naftali Arden, and Rabbi Alex Chapper took part from their respective houses and the ceremony was shown on Facebook and the shul’s website.

Flanked by his parents and two siblings, Naftali also gave a short speech, saying he was “really thrilled” that so many people could view the ceremony from around the world, among them family and friends from London, Manchester, Israel and America.

“I can’t see you but I hope you are all wearing the smartest party clothes,” he said. “No fluffy slippers and absolutely no Arsenal dressing gowns.”

Rabbi Chapper complimented  the barmitzvah boy on a “fantastic” haftorah and speech. “And it was really wonderful to hear it in absolute silence.

“I’m just sorry that it isn’t quite the barmitzvah you were working so hard in preparation [for]. But it is so impressive how mature your response has been to current events and it’s amazing how enthusiastically you’ve embraced the opportunity to mark your barmitzvah in this way.

“Naftali, you and your family are chalutzim, you’re pioneers.”

Speaking to the JC before the event, Naftali’s mother Tania said she was “stoical” about the way things had turned out. “There’s nothing we can do, this is nobody’s fault.

“Having been very upset to cancel the party, very upset to cancel our Shabbat meal and devastated to find out our shul had now closed, this seems like a rather wonderful, meaningful thing to do - firstly to mark his barmitzvah and secondly to somehow link the community.

“I hope that, if shul is closed for a long time, this might be some sort of option for all sorts of events to bring people together remotely.”

Naftali said it was “really important” to involve those who in normal circumstances would have attended the ceremony.

The family have postponed Naftali’s party, instead planning to celebrate when his sister is batmitzvah next February. Mrs Arden hoped that when the shul eventually reopened, Naftali wouldl be able to lead a service.



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