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Coming of Age in the Age of Coronavirus
Coronavirus 2020

Coming of Age in the Age of Coronavirus

Ruben Golran had to limit his bar mitzvah ceremony to close relatives. 
Courtesy of the Golran family
Ruben Golran had to limit his bar mitzvah ceremony to close relatives. Courtesy of the Golran family

Talk about getting robbed.

Ruben Golran had studied for a year and a half in anticipation of this week, when 600 of his relatives and friends were supposed to converge on Milan to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

First, he planned to have a ceremony last Tuesday, when he would put on tefillin, a Jewish ritual object, for the first time — a traditional rite of passage. Then it was a blowout party on Thursday night catered by a local kosher Israeli restaurant, and finally another ritual ceremony on Shabbat.

Instead, Ruben’s parents found out Sunday that everything would be canceled. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus in northern Italy, regional officials had prohibited large gatherings. A day later, houses of worship were ordered closed.

Within a matter of hours, the family called dozens of relatives across the globe, telling them to cancel their flights. On Tuesday, the tefillin ceremony included just Ruben’s close relatives and no friends instead of the 400 planned guests.

There was no party on Thursday night. Instead, Ruben and his family dined at the Israeli restaurant that was supposed to cater the affair. They’re still not sure what will happen on Shabbat.

“He learned everything, he was ready, he was waiting for the whole family to come and then they said it isn’t happening, the synagogue is closed, you can go with your parents if you want,” said Ruben’s mother, Nethaly Golran. “He made us very proud because through all of this, he was very mature. He never cried. He was sad, but he said, ‘It’s OK. It’s OK, mom. It’ll be OK.’”

Jewish residents of Milan say they felt like the city, Italy’s economic capital, had shut down this week: Soccer matches were canceled, the city’s Duomo — a major tourist attraction — was closed and restaurants were instructed to shut before a national evening drink and snack time called “aperitivo.”

If anyone is in need of some Purim revelry, it’s the 10,000 Jews of Milan, after bar mitzvahs, brisses and community classes have all been cancelled. The holiday is right around the corner, and though some holiday parties have already been nixed because of coronavirus, the community is hoping that things will return to normal before the holiday comes on March 10.


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