As coronavirus upturns normal life for most people on the planet, many Jewish parents are faced with a difficult conundrum: What to do about a child’s bar or bat mitzvah, a major lifecycle event that is typically years in the making.
While some (understandably!) harried parents may choose to reschedule or cancel altogether, many Jewish families are forging ahead and conducting both the service and the party virtually. Although comedian Billy Eichner draws the line at live streaming a virtual bris — though many Jewish parents have, of course, pursued this route — under the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish celebrations must go on.
Of course, organizing a virtual bar/bat mitzvah is a completely different animal than planning an actual, three-dimensional, IRL celebration — and it’s a task not many parents are equipped to navigate.
That’s where Scott Present, founder of Xtreme Event Group, comes in.
The New Jersey-based entertainment group, Xtreme Event Group, has launched a new initiative to help celebrate this Jewish rite-of-passage in these unprecedented times. An all-inclusive virtual party planning service, “The Virtual Simcha” provides a professional host to orchestrate a successful live-stream bar or bat mitzah, from Hebrew blessing and candle lighting services to virtual versions of the Hora and interactive games.
“While we’re unsure when social gatherings will commence around the country,” Present tells us, “life must continue in our new reality. We shouldn’t pause such an important religious milestone based solely on the uncertainty.”
With so many clients postponing their traditional bar/bat mitzvah parties, Present realized there was a need his company could fill.
“In speaking with our clients and understanding their frustrations and fears, we wanted to be able to allow them a platform to still host the religious component and incorporate some ‘celebration’ in a virtual setting,” he says.
On top of providing an emcee to host, Xtreme Event Group is also helping its clients with Zoom technology to host religious services. Also, since mid-March, the company launched other virtual entertainment initiatives including a live interactive video game show (using Kahoot!) and a TikTok dance challenge.
The idea for the Virtual Simcha was born from conversations with many of Xtreme Event Group’s clients. “One of our clients specifically sparked the idea, after she wanted to still show her bat-mitzvah photo montage to all of her family and friends on Zoom, and even incorporate a candle lighting ceremony,” Present says.
How much does the whole virtual shebang cost? A heck of a lot less than Xtreme Event Group’s in-person live events. The average simcha package is priced at $6,000, whereas the Virtual Simcha starts at $500 for facilitating the technology. Depending on what the families are looking for, and how elaborate they want to get, the price tag can hike up to $1,500.
“The Virtual Simcha service doesn’t replace a traditional party,” Present said in a press release. “However, it provides an outlet to connect and celebrate with those most important to you during this unique time in our history, and most importantly acknowledges the hard work and accomplishments of the guest of honor.”
Without a Saturday morning Torah service, lifting the bar/bat mitzvah kid on a chair during the hora, and changing into socks to cha-cha slide across the dance floor, a virtual simcha certainly can’t compare to a live celebration. But coronavirus and social distancing policies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so perhaps doling out the dough for a professional crew to orchestrate a virtual simcha is the closest — and least stress-inducing — solution to maintaining a sense of normalcy under these strange times.
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