Miriam and Shayna Marcus did not envision entering Jewish womanhood, celebrating their bnot mitzvah, in a masked, socially distant, Zoomed way.
After all, who would?
The Teaneck twins, like so many other girls, looked forward to a big party with music and friends, dancing and food. They hoped to celebrate and make memories in that traditional 12-year-old girl way. But like so many other anticipated live and populated events, the coronavirus pandemic had scuttled the best laid plans. And yet like so many who wouldn’t be deterred from marking an important milestone in some special way, the twins’ parents, Debbie and Robert Marcus, had a plan B.
Debbie Marcus said when they thought about the party for the girls, she had planned to invite members of the special needs community, an idea she remembered from decades ago at the bnot mitzvah of twins Tzivia and Nili, daughters of Charlie and Nancy Block. She was very touched by the inclusion, as were the girls who went to their party.
Nevertheless, party or not, Plan B for Miriam and Shayna’s bnot mitzvah included plenty of good deeds.
The Marcus sisters, 5th graders at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, whose birthday was on February 27, used their milestone to spread more good in the world. The girls studied and learned Perek Shirah, an ancient text known as the Song of the Universe in which all of creation praise the Creator. To enhance their learning and share a meaningful keepsake, the Marcus family donated copies the Artscroll Series of Perek Shira to the 5th grade class.
Debbie Marcus said that Perek Shirah was chosen for the girls’ bnot mitzvah, not only for its esoteric beauty and the lessons it imparts, but in the merit for a complete recovery for Shira Bat Devorah Leah, Shira Shatzkes, a young Teaneck mother of five, who has suffered a brain aneurysm. Her plight has deeply touched the community, which continues to rally around her family and do mitzvahs and other inspired good deeds in an effort to hasten her recovery.
The girls shared their learning and celebrated with the class on Zoom, as their parents and older sister Daniella spoke.
The event also coincided with the 16th yahrzeit of the 2005 fire in which four children died in the tragic blaze that shook the Teaneck and greater community. Debbie Marcus’ dear friend, Philyss Seindenfeld, the mother of those children who perished, was in the area, visiting from Israel where she now lives, and had arranged for “Thank you Hashem” pamphlets to be prepared and shared with the class and the community. Ms. Seindenfeld also spoke during the Zoom.
The event has left an indelible and powerful mark on the two Marcus girls.
Miriam said, “I enjoyed being the oldest in my grade and having the first bat mitzvah. I feel like it was special even though I’m pretty sad we didn’t get to have a party because of Covid-19. I would rather have everyone be safe than sorry. I enjoyed learning about Perek Shirah, first of all because I love animals and it had some of my favorites such as frogs and foxes. I also learned how everything has its own prayer to Hashem and it’s not just something that is on the earth randomly. Whether it is an animal or plant. each thing from the smallest spider to the tallest tree sings a song to Hashem. We learn that not only do we human species daven to Hashem but so do the animals, plants and even the ocean prays to Hashem.”
Shayna said, “Even though we did not have a party like we originally planned, it turned out to be very special to me. We chose Perek Shirah to help daven (pray) for Shira bat Devorah Leah to have a refuah shleimah (full recovery). I enjoyed learning Perek Shirah because it teaches us a lesson of how every creation is from Hashem and to be thankful for everything Hashem gives to us. The book had beautiful pictures of nature and animals. We were happy to share our bat mitzvah with everyone on Zoom.”
As for their proud mother?
Debbie Marcus said that she hoped that her daughters take away a message for their lives of true faith and trust in knowing that “our purpose is to do good in the world and to know that Hashem is in control and that everything that comes from Hashem is good.”