Dave and Kristy Snyder had been looking forward to their son Spencer’s bar mitzvah for months when the coronavirus, and the warnings about gathering in large groups, forced them to cancel it just two days before the event.
The couple, who lives in Ridgefield, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, spent hours over the phone canceling the service and the DJ and informing guests of their decision. But when Dave called Union Hmong Kitchen, a small pop-up restaurant they had contracted to cater a meal on Shabbat, to tell the owner that the bar mitzvah was off, he didn’t cancel the order. Instead, he picked up the food and distributed it to friends he knew were immunocompromised or sick and therefore at greater risk if they went out to buy food or run errands.
“I said if you can box the stuff up, I’ll pick it up and drop it off with people who can use it,” said Dave.
As the day of the March 14 bar mitzvah approached, health warnings about the virus became more dire. “It was really hard as the days counted down to Spencer’s bar mitzvah as it started to become clear that this wouldn’t be a normal bar mitzvah,” Dave said.
Per his synagogue’s custom, Spencer read his Torah portion for the whole Hebrew school on the Wednesday night before the bar mitzvah and again on Thursday for the morning minyan. But after guests from out of town started to cancel and Dave’s mother, who is 74, expressed concerns about attending Saturday’s event, the Snyders told the rabbi that they wanted to cancel.
“Our rabbi said go and talk to your son, he’s going to be an adult, he should have a vote in this,” said Dave. Spencer wasn’t surprised and agreed to cancel. “And we found out he had been texting my mom saying, ‘I don’t think you should come,’” said his father.
The decision was an emotional one. Dave’s mother had helped found the synagogue, Shir Tikvah. In 1989 Dave became one of the first bar mitzvahs in the newly founded synagogue.
Still, Dave was glad to be able to help people through the food donations. He later found out that the restaurant had already had thousands of dollars’ worth of contracts canceled. The owner of the restaurant “told me this would help him pay his workers this month,” he said.
For now, the Snyders are planning a re-do of the bar mitzvah for this summer. School is cancelled. They’re planning to put up flyers offering help to neighbors who are sick or elderly and are staying home. “It’s meaningful to me that we can be part of the effort to figure out who is the most vulnerable and figuring out how to help them,” said Dave.