Family adapts to COVID by scheduling bar mitzvah ceremony, party for different dates

Rachel and Zachary Burrows
Rachel and Zachary Burrows (Courtesy of Rachel Burrows)

For 13-year-old Zachary Burrows, the pandemic hasn’t only changed the way he goes to school and socializes. To keep attendees safe from coronavirus, he and his family have rescheduled his bar mitzvah party to take place months after his ceremony.

Zachary’s bar mitzvah ceremony and party were originally both supposed to be held in December of 2020, said Rachel Burrows of Ellicott City, Zachary’s mother. The party would have taken place at Columbia’s live music venue, The Soundry, which permanently closed last summer.

Between The Soundry closing its doors and COVID-19 making large gatherings a health hazard, it became clear the original plan needed amending. Initially, they considered rescheduling both the ceremony and party to May of 2021. However, without knowing how much of the country would be vaccinated by then or how comfortable guests would be gathering in person at that point, they eventually settled on rescheduling the ceremony for May while pushing the party significantly further back, likely in August. Currently, they are looking at holding an outdoor party at the Chrysalis at Merriweather Park, near the Merriweather Post Pavilion, Burrows said.

Burrows anticipates that, following the bar mitzvah ceremony in May, the immediate family will have a small celebration by going out for lunch at a restaurant, she said.

“I was sad, ‘cause it was a little weird,” Zachary said. “I’d never gone through any pandemic or virus. I’ve gone to other bar mitzvahs and I’ve gone to the party right after, so it’s a little weird trying to adjust and going to the service and then the party months later.”

Zachary expects the excitement that comes from the bar mitzvah will die down in the months between his ceremony and party. “It’s not really going to seem as perfect when you can’t celebrate right after your bar mitzvah is finished,” he said.

On the other hand, Zachary was glad that the new arrangement would allow him to have two special days instead of just one.

Having to plan two separate events on two separate days involved a significant amount of mental gymnastics, Burrows said. That said, she stressed that it was important to not be concerned with what a typical bar mitzvah was supposed to look like, given the circumstances, for the sake of those who would be attending.

“It was a little challenging, because there was a lot of weighing the pros and the cons and having to factor in unknowns,” Burrows said. “With COVID, there’s new information and updates every day.”

Rescheduling her son’s bar mitzvah day was relatively easy, she said. As the original venue for the party, The Soundry, had shut down of its own accord, they refunded the family’s original deposit with little fuss. The only other service that she had booked at that point was the DJ, who was flexible about rescheduling for a date in the summer.

Burrows was grateful that they had not yet hired a caterer or a photographer, as it meant not having to deal with rescheduling either of them.

The only other concern was checking with family members to make sure they would be available for the future dates for the bar mitzvah instead.

Taking few chances, the family is looking into ordering custom face masks for use both during the ceremony in May and the party in August, Burrows said.

“It’s hard to predict, but I would think, even if masks aren’t required outside, there are many people that are still more comfortable with masks, depending how the numbers are,” Burrows said. “So I think that’s a high probability that there will be masks to some extent at the party.”

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