Social distancing had its virtues for Adam Jacobson, the barmitzvah boy at Liverpool’s Childwall Synagogue last Shabbat.
Attendance at the service was limited to 30, with 19 places allocated to the family (the original guest-list had been 120).
And with the congregation “so spread out that you couldn’t see everyone”, Adam said he felt less nervous.
Childwall was one of a small number of shuls to resume physical services on Shabbat to accommodate a post-lockdown barmitzvah.
Adam’s mother, Tanya, said the experience had been “utterly surreal.
“People wearing masks, the rabbi holding a Torah with blue surgical gloves... It felt like I was in a sci-fi movie. However, from the moment Adam was on the bimah, I just got lost in the barmitzvah and forgot what the context was.”
The family had been torn over whether to postpone the ceremony. But Adam told the JC he believed “a barmitzvah is about becoming a man” and so to delay it didn’t make sense.
His grandparents, Hazel and Ivor Joseph, who are both in their 80s, were among the congregation.
Mrs Jacobson said the couple had considered the pros and cons and decided that “for the tiny risk they felt they were taking, they wouldn’t have missed it for anything”.
The party has been delayed until social distancing is relaxed and the kiddush was donated to the community’s nearby care home, Stapely.
Childwall’s Rabbi Avinoam Czitron told the JC the service had been “a learning curve, [providing] a better understanding of what to do in the future”.
The shul was also open for weekday services and the barmitzvah boy attended his first minyan on Monday morning. It is also accommodating members from Allerton Synagogue, which has less than 20 available seats because of social distancing.
Childwall leaders hope plans for a major redevelopment — which would see the building demolished and a modern, smaller synagogue built — will be implemented when the pandemic is over.
In the current building, constructed in 1935, the 800-seat sanctuary has been closed for two years due to leaks. A 600-seat area is being used but is costly to heat. The new building would be more suitable to the needs of Childwall’s 350 members.
Rabbi Czitron said the rebuilding project — which would take around 14 months — would be financed by a separate development taking up some of the synagogue’s car park space.