By Deb Silverthorn
Baby David Shlomo Lomner won’t know for quite some time how special his simcha was, on a rainy morning when his community came together by staying apart.
Baby Lomner’s brit milah, held on the Memorial Day holiday May 25, featured dozens of cars lining the family’s Plano street. They passed by with blessings of mazel tov, and left with extra joy in their hearts and breakfast in a box.
“We were so happy to see people and to share the simcha with everyone, even if it was in an unusual way,” said Rabbi Michel Lomner, the baby’s father. “Seeing our families on Zoom and watching the cars come by with shouts of ‘mazel tov’ will forever be blessings to our family.”
Rabbi Lomner and his wife, Devora, both teach at Akiba Yavneh Academy and Rabbi Lomner is city director for Jewish Student Union (JSU) and National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). With siblings Chana, Dovy, Mordy and Nosson also close by, mohel Rabbi David Shawel performed the brit milah. Rabbi Nasanya Zakon was the sandek honored with holding David during the ceremony. Rabbis Shawel and Lommer also wore masks, a sign of the times in the COVID-19 era.
“I’m inspired by families moving forward and hopefully I inspire them too,” said Rabbi Shawel. “The bris is an opportunity to engage in our faith, to be wrapped in Yiddishkeit. For 3,732 years fathers have said ‘bemitzvotav vetzivanu lehachnisoh bivrito shel Avraham Avinu — the commandment of accepting the covenant of Abraham our Father.’”
Rabbi Shawel has performed 18 brises since mid-March. In this era of shelter-in-place and physical distancing, he said he is confident the ritual is safe.
Myles Kass was born March 18 and on his eighth day was named Malkiel Aharon with his parents, Dr. Josh Kass and mother Michelle, at his side. Dr. Kass, a pediatrician who often performs circumcisions, and did the actual cut for his son, said there was no question about having Rabbi Shawel lead the ritual.
“I’m not trained in the ritual so there was never a question about this just as it was meant to be,” said Dr. Kass. “We had no concerns and Myles is great.”
As he meets with expectant parents, Rabbi Shawel said he hopes to ease their anxieties about having a bris during the pandemic. Only three families he’s met with have decided to forgo the tradition.
The bris and drive-by celebration for the Lomners illustrate how it’s possible to have a simcha even if the hugs are virtual. Their longtime friends Aimee and Doug Wortendyke, and their children Ari, Dena (the Lomner’s mother helper) and Lila, stood by the Lomners’ living room window, as rain fell and blessings warmed them through a window screen.
“It was truly special to share the simcha in this way. Being ‘in’ the room, or in the yard as we did, nothing could have made the morning more special,” said Aimee Wortendyke. “There is only a good memory that will come of this morning and, in this time, making good memories is so important.”
Rabbi Lomner pointed to the enduring symbolism of the bris as one more way the Jewish people adhere to their tradition while adapting for current conditions.
“As the bris ceremony is all about the relationship and responsibility that we have to and with our Father in heaven,” said Rabbi Lomner, “these times are especially conducive for all of us to strengthen our relationships and responsibilities to our loved ones and Hashem.”