By Hannah Simon
Dr. Barry and Dr. Charwynne Schneider were married outside of Ahavath Sholom May 12, Lag B’Omer. Dr. Barry Schneider explained, “The only day a couple can get married between Pesach and Shavuot is on Lag B’Omer. We had been planning it for a while, and with the pandemic, we did not want to wait until the world started to spin again.” Although the Schneiders do not have another official wedding celebration planned, they plan to celebrate with their family when it is safe to gather. They did have an Italian cruise planned, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Barry and Charwynne met when they were both working in the Fort Worth Independent School District in the ‘80s. They have been family friends for years. He ran into her at shul, and the rest was history.
Rabbi Bloom said, “One of the foundations in all of Judaism is celebrating lifecycle events as they bring joy to an entirety of a community. Nothing could be more true about this statement than a wedding during a pandemic. The chuppah is open on all sides, and it was as if the pandemic was blowing outward and flying away while God’s presence and the best wishes of thousands of years of Judaism was filling up the holy space.”
Barry served as the national commander of the Jewish War Veterans last year. He has been an active member of the Fort Worth Jewish community for years. Charwynne sits on the board of directors of the Jewish Education Agency.
Jonas Evans, son of Robert and Sarah Brinkman and James Evans, had his bar mitzvah May 16 over Zoom conducted by Rabbi Brian Zimmerman. This was the first Zoom bar mitzvah Beth-El Congregation had ever done. Jonas had been working so hard, and did not want to push it out until a later date. His Torah portion was Behar-Bechukotai. Jonas’s aliyot were chanted over Zoom by Daniel and Christy Rousch, in person by Chava Rousch-Carlisle and lastly, by Jonas. Chava also presented Jonas with his grandfather’s tallit. When asked why he was so determined to stick to his original date, he replied, “I wanted to get it over with. It was less pressure because not everyone was looking at me.” He will go down in Beth-El’s history as the first virtual bar mitzvah.
The benefit of a Zoom bar mitzvah is that people who were not physically present were able to interact with Jonas, so it was a very different experience. Jonas’ family in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Texas, who might not have been able to attend, got to watch and interact with him, while he led his bar mitzvah service, from the comfort of their own homes.
Dylan Finkelstein, son of Jason and Alice Finkelstein, had his bar mitzvah July 2 over a livestream conducted by Rabbi Zimmerman as well. He was supposed to have his bar mitzvah in Israel at the Western Wall, but due to COVID-19, he had to change his plans. Dylan said, “It felt weird at first, but I got to put my own touch on it.” He read his late grandfather’s original bar mitzvah speech from 1955. Dylan’s aliyot were performed over the phone, traveling in an RV, by the Menkes family (Jason’s sister), over the phone by Kurt and Ilana Knust, in person by Jason and Alice Finkelstein, and lastly, by Dylan. The Finkelsteins hope to be in Israel next summer.
Rabbi Zimmerman explained the ins and outs of a virtual ceremony. “Both Zoom and livestream offer benefits but also challenges. Our first virtual bar mitzvah was on Zoom and allowed family members to participate from remote locations. However, we made a decision to move forward with livestreaming whenever possible. While a private sanctuary livestream with only the rabbi and the immediate family present limited the interpersonal give-and-take of a Zoom call, it also allowed us to bring the family and virtually, extended family, into a larger sacred space. While not every temple has this option, we felt that the high definition streaming allowed the family to escape the physical confines of this home quarantine and hold this liminal event in a sacred and also different physical location.”