By Deb Silverthorn
Jonathan Grossfeld’s coming-of-age moment as a bar mitzvah arrived May 21 as his family and his community came together in new ways to provide the ultimate lesson.
“I’m really glad we could go on and look for the good right now,” said Jonathan, son of Ashley and Marc and brother of Jacob and Sarah. “Realizing it’s almost always possible to move ahead despite everything is a life lesson I’ve learned and one I won’t forget.”
Once the COVID-19 restrictions arrived in March, the family began to explore possibilities to allow Jonathan to share the Torah portion he’d studied and to have it be as meaningful as they’d imagined. Together with Congregation Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, they went to work with creativity and support.
“All of our immediate family is local and it was important to be together,” said Ashley, noting that the original plans included the service at Anshai Torah and a party at Addison Conference and Theatre Centre. “With just two weeks to go it came together and it was perfect.”
Jonathan, who has grown up at both Anshai Torah and Levine Academy, couldn’t have felt more at home on his day, surrounded by his family, settled in the Wende Weinberg Prayer Garden at Levine Academy. The garden is an outdoor prayer space dedicated to the rebbetzin and teacher of blessed memory, whom the family still regards with honor.
“While the challenges of the pandemic have been so very real, time and again I’ve watched families embrace the challenge, making the best of difficult moments and striving to teach important lessons,” said Rabbi Weinberg. “Jonathan’s quiet confidence, outstanding skillset, beautiful voice, and humble demeanor helped to create a morning that will remain etched in my memory.”
Jonathan led services, read from the Torah and offered his Haftorah via Facebook Live.
“Jonathan is a wonderful student whose Levine education shines through. I loved working with him,” said Adina Weinberg, Jonathan’s tutor, who transferred studies to Facetime once stay-at-home orders were in place. “The opportunity to share in a simcha, in the garden named for my mother, with my father officiating had all the dots connecting in a unique and meaningful way.”
Jonathan’s celebration moved to Levine Academy’s parking lot with friends, family and teachers driving by with love, gifts and hugs from afar. A mobile billboard screened a photo montage, DJ Avi Lipszyc kept guests jamming, photographer Lara Bierner captured all and Jason Traub livestreamed.
For his mitzvah project, Jonathan has collected towel sets for residents of Family Gateway. He chose the project after a guest from the organization visited Levine Academy and introduced students to the concept of transitional housing.
Once socializing returns in person, Jonathan looks forward to returning to the basketball courts of the Stallions at both Levine and Plano Sports Authority. A budding entrepreneur, he’s already entered the business world of sneaker culture, collecting and reselling rare tennis shoes.
Jonathan has dedicated himself to continue studying Torah and to chanting his Torah portion each year. Hopefully in years to come, chanting the portion will remind him of a morning with wide-open space and full hearts.
Rabbi Weinberg called the morning “one I will never forget. Refusing to bow to the pressure of the time, we found a way to maintain a commitment to tradition and this young man was more than ready to take his place among our Jewish people.”