WESTFIELD, NJ – It wasn’t quite how he’d planned it.

On Saturday, with his synagogue closed due to the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, Ethan Selvers streamed his bar mitzvah to about 80 families live from his house in Westfield. It was the first time Temple Emanu-El ever held virtual bar mitzvah.

“We were aware that Ethan’s bar mitzvah could have been impacted by the coronavirus for a few weeks,” Ethan’s dad, Rob Selvers, said. “My wife and I discussed moving the service, but Ethan was adamant that we proceed.”

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“I was definitely a little disappointed when I first found out. I was looking forward to having my service in person with my family and friends,” Ethan Selvers said.

The religious service was streamed on Zoom, a site used for video conferencing and meetings. Before the with the service, the participants held a run-through online.

“We had to work with the temple to make sure the technology worked appropriately,” Rob Selvers said. “Instead of going to the temple for a practice, we did a video conference with the rabbi and cantor. It worked seamlessly.”

The family encouraged friends and family to watch in their pajamas.

“This is the first service ever that I’m not wearing shoes for,” said Rabbi Ethan Prosnit, who led the prayers.

Attire aside, the service ran much like it would have at Temple Emanu-El.

“Even though we went on and did it online, my preparations were the same,” Ethan Selvers said. “The only thing I had to change was my speech, to thank everyone for watching at home.”

Later in the day, friends and family came down the street riding bikes and honking in their cars as the Selvers family stood outside of their house. Nobody in the family knew that was coming, they said.

Rabbi Prosnit said that the online simcha exceeded his expectations.

“I found it to be a really powerful experience,” Rabbi Prosnit said. “The past week and a half have been really challenging for so many people but being a part of Ethan’s bar mitzvah brought so much joy to those who ‘attended’ and gave us something to celebrate.”

Michael Siroty is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.

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