On a day when most public places in Massachusetts were forced to close by the Blizzard of 2013, more than 300 members and guests of Temple Israel of Sharon braved the elements — many of them walking through nearly 3 feet of snow — to attend b’nai mitzvah services.
As the mammoth storm moved in on Friday, and even as most religious institutions closed across the state, the temple remained open and then held two b’nai mitzvah services the following day during the height of the blizzard.
“There were going to be Saturday services anyway, the synagogue was going to be open, and my son had been learning his Torah reading for over a year, so there was no question about it — we were going to do it,” said Aimee Close, mother of Ariel Kwitkin-Close, whose bar mitzvah was held in the morning.
Ariel, his mother, and grandmother Barbara knew they weren’t going to be able to walk the mile and a half to the synagogue in observance of Shabbat Saturday morning, so they stayed with friends who live closer to the temple, on Friday night.
The family walked to the synagogue at 8:30 in the morning, not knowing how many people would show. Sitting in the front row, they were shocked, each time they turned around, to see more than 100 guests, mostly members of the temple, walking in from the storm.
“People just kept coming into the room,” Close said. “Every time someone came in, we were just amazed. They’ve watched him grow up — everybody said if they could get out they would be there. It’s really a testament to Ari and to the community.”
The temple’s cantor, Steven Dress, and his wife, Myrna, who also observe Shabbat, slept at the temple Friday night so they would be there to assist, and one of the custodians, John Holleran, walked more than 2 miles so he could be there to help.
“It really shows what a wonderful community we have here in Sharon,” Close said. “The congregation was just so committed to being there for us, and I was just in complete awe that 100 people showed up in a blizzard for a bar mitzvah.”
And it wasn’t over yet. Soon after Ariel’s bar mitzvah, more people, including caterers, party organizers, a DJ, custodial staff, and about 200 guests arrived for an afternoon b’nai mitzvah for brothers Ben and Zach Reingold.
“We decided to really make the best of it, and whoever could be there to celebrate with us, we were really grateful to,” said Kim Reingold, the boys’ mother.
She said the party planner, Gary Fisher, brought his wife and children to set up and serve the meal.
“It just came together for us,” she said. “I don’t know how everyone was able to be where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was as perfect as it could be.
“We’re very grateful that the community came together and really rallied for us.”