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torahreadingWhen COVID closed down everything from schools to offices and the NBA to Broadway, most people thought the shutdown would last a few weeks. We gasped when schools didn’t reopen after two weeks. Parents made last minute decisions to move spring Bar and Bat Mitzvahs to later in the summer. Many newly minted teens who had been studying their Torah portions were dismayed about their postponed services and celebrations, but the end seemed to be in sight.

As restrictions for gatherings remained in place for much of the summer, families started turning to other options for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Some turned to Zoom to allow their child to complete the ceremonial portion rather than waiting for the pandemic to end. In many cases, this meant learning a new Torah portion unless the Bar/Bat Mitzvah was postponed a full year.

Now, 14-months after the crisis hit, Zoom-mitzvahs are still standard. Even as small in-person gatherings are starting up again, both in the sanctuary and out, travel restrictions remain (by choice or by law) and celebrations of any sort are limited in capacity, so the Zoom-mitzvah is a nice alternative for those that cannot attend or are not invited to attend in person.

In this two-part piece, we will focus first on what families are doing or have done for their children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in the last year. Then, stay tuned for our follow up piece on vendors for everything Bar/Bat Mitzvah related: logos, invitations, photographers, videographers and Zoom experts, montages, venues, tent rental companies, dresses, caterers, and the newly minted “mitzvah boxes,” or boxes of goodies sent to guests attending the service remotely. (Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.)

Whether you’re having the Bar/Bat Mitzvah at a synagogue or in your home, live streaming for guests not in physical attendance has become the norm in the pandemic. The benefits of using Zoom are that remote guests can interact with guests attending in-person as well as the child being honored. Live-streaming allows for one way viewing and the quality (both video and audio) tends to be higher with a simple web-cam or high quality camera. You can combine livestreaming with a Zoom, or even record people ahead of time participating in an aliya, for example, and play it at the time of their honor. You can manage things on your end (like splitting the screen and having the prayer book on the screen as well) or let people do it themselves.

Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-El has been doing almost all services virtually since last March 2020. On April 17, they will begin in-person worship for up to 20 people outside. It will be a hybrid model until things are back fully in-person. The synagogue arranges the Zoom for Bar/Bat Mitzvah services, removing that burden from the parents.” I think the clergy are Zoom experts at this point,” said a mom of a newly Bat-Mitzvah’ed boy. Rabbi Jeffrey Brown seemed especially proud of his congregants. Families are accepting this “…with warmth and strength. Everyone understands the uniqueness of this moment. Each of our families has made the experience their own,” he said.

Rabbi Brown’s words should not be taken lightly. Though some expressed doubt that the service and celebration would be meaningful, many hosts, guests and honorees have found a deeper connection in a Zoom Bar/Bat Mitzvah than anticipated. A mom of two from Edgemont said she found Zoom services to be just a special as in person. “The service had all of the same components in it, so it didn’t feel that different,” she said. “Plus, they tend to be shorter and I can dress casually, so those are some nice perks of the Zoom service.” She added that she hopes Zooms will continue as they allow for out-of-town guests to be a part of the big day.

A mom of three from Edgemont has attended several remote services and agreed. “We watched from the comfort of our living room and appreciated the Bar Mitzvah boys’ effort, especially his speech,” she said. “We loved seeing the video screens of other friends watching and found just as much meaning in it as we would have in person.” A third mom felt like in-person COVID restrictions actually benefited her son. “He has anxiety and didn’t want a crowd or party in the first place,” she confided, “so this really worked out well for us. We were at home and both the Cantor and Rabbi were remote. Everything went better than expected. For us, having family of different generations be able to participate from all over the world was a silver lining. My son’s great grandmothers were both able to join remotely, and this never would have happened pre-pandemic.”

Many people I spoke with loved seeing a video montage at the end of the service and recommend including this for both the in-person attendees as well as the remote guests. We will have suggestions for self-creating a montage as well as hiring someone to do it in our follow up piece.

Restrictions on large indoor parties have allowed people to be creative with their celebrations for the Bar/Bat mitzvah honoree. Some people have had food trucks come to their driveways with limited guests in attendance and kept everything outdoors. “It was nice for my son to be a part of these small celebrations,” said one mom. “There were limited guests, it was all outdoors, and it felt both safe and fun. One celebration included 10 kids for 90 minutes, then another 10 kids for 90 minutes and there was food, a DJ and games for both sets of kids. A crepe truck and a hot chocolate bar were both hits with the kids.” Another parent is planning to host a small outdoor dinner party for 50 at a local country club after the service. A third family is planning to skip any sort of party altogether and will use the money they would have spent on that to make donations to organizations that are meaningful to their son.

Other trends? “I love these care packages people are sending out,” said a mom of an upcoming Bar Mitzvah boy. “A friend from San Francisco sent boxes with kippahs, candy, and other goodies ahead of time. It was such a nice surprise!” One mom sent Nutella babka from Martines Bakery in Scarsdale Village to remote guests. Another soon-to-be Mitzvah Mom said one host asked guests to email a picture of themselves watching the zoom service. “They will make an album out of that which will make for a beautiful memory.” Videos from guests using Tribute or Vidhug also seem to be popular ways to include remote guests in the celebration.

Are people feeling comfortable with indoor celebrations now that many adults are vaccinated? Most people I spoke with said no to indoors at this point but outdoors, probably. “We plan to seat people in pods and follow all safety protocols,” said a parent who is planning a dinner celebration for 50, outdoors, with some entertainment. “A family can have a table for four. Vaccinated people can sit with other vaccinated people they choose or others if all are comfortable. My goal is to ensure that everyone feels safe and is safe.” The club she’s hosting at is flexible with tables and they’ll plan seating last minute to accommodate requests.

What about gifts? We have no exact answer except that it’s important to feel good about your decision to gift. One parent felt confused about when to give a gift. “Last Fall, host parents were saying that the party was postponed but still happening sometime in the future after the zoom service. So, some parents of guests felt that giving the gift now was like saying ‘right, as if there’s going to be a party,’ and then if there is, do you show up empty handed at the party? Some hosts were using the Zoom with no party as a way to invite the entire grade in Edgemont,” she added. “On one hand, it’s inclusive and that’s lovely, on the other hand, it’s confusing from a gift-giving standpoint.”

Without a big party do you still give the large amounts we’ve become used to giving? Are we moving away from the “plate cost?” On the other hand, shouldn’t we give the same whether there’s a party or not? “It doesn’t seem right to penalize the kid because they happen to turn 13 during the pandemic,” said a thoughtful upcoming bat mitzvah guest. Then there’s the question of being invited to a Zoom from someone who likely wouldn’t have invited you if in person. Do you give a gift if you don’t attend the Zoom?

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section regarding gifting, your experiences as a bar/bat mitzvah host parent or guest during the pandemic, what worked or didn’t for remote gifts as well as plans for in-person celebrations.

loveourlibraryspringcelebration2021 copyThe Friends of the Scarsdale Library will hold a “Love Our Library-Spring Celebration” on May 15th (rain date May 22nd). The celebration will be held outdoors at the Scarsdale Public Library and feature several fun child-friendly activities including:

-Performances by Dave Cast of Characters featuring “The Bubble Guy”

-Family rock painting

-Motorized boat racing at Library Pond

-Bollywood dance classes by Mayura Dance Academy

-Educational presentations by the Weinberg Nature Center

-Knit Together – Tanya Singer and Sarah Divi interactive art piece that attendees can photograph and post

-Tours of the Hindsight is 2020 Art Exhibit. The exhibit features local artwork inspired by the pandemic and attendees can sign up for tours at the event.

Food will also be available for purchase from the Apiary at the Library and Manny’s Ice Cream Truck.

Admission is $35.00 per family. Attendees are encouraged to also become “Friends” of the Library with an additional contribution to the FOSL. Due to COVID-19, families are asked to sign up in advance by May 7th via the Library’s website here. Car parking passes and wristbands will then be available ahead of the event for pick-up at Scarsdale Village Hall starting May 10th. Additionally, masks and social distancing will be required at the event, and hand sanitizers will be available.

Since 1946, the Friends of the Scarsdale Library (FOSL) has supported children’s enrichment, lifelong learning, and exciting programming that impact so many in the Scarsdale community. “The Friends of the Scarsdale Library is excited to put on this event for the community to celebrate our new library and the resilience of our community.” said Dara Gruenberg, President of the FOSL. She added “It is inspiring to see the continued support for SPL from Scarsdale, and the funds raised from our annual fundraiser are essential in supporting Library programming and activities that the community continues to enjoy and demand.”

Nancy Kaplan, FOSL board member, who is coordinating the celebration said, “After living for so long under lockdown and with restrictions gradually easing, Scarsdale families are eager for events to take their children to. We are thrilled to be organizing not just one of the first major community celebrations of the library, but for the Scarsdale community as well!”

Elizabeth Bermel, Executive Director at the Scarsdale Public Library added, “We could not hold a celebration for the community after the renovations to the library were completed last year due to COVID-19. I am excited that this event will serve in part as a community celebration. We are grateful to the Friends for all their hard work that raises funds to support our mission: to encourage the joy of reading, the exploration of ideas, and the pursuit of lifelong learning for the children and adults of our community.”

To purchase admission for the event, please visit the sign up page here

summerdiscoverStudents at the Summer Discovery Program at UCLAThough the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty for summer camps, most of the programs that we contacted are planning to move forward but waiting for further guidance to finalize the details.

Camps have received some regulations which require:

-50% occupancy on buses
-Limited occupancy in indoor classrooms – per each district’s recommendations
-Gathering of children in pods or cohorts – further details to come.

Nevertheless, all the programs below are moving forward and accepting sign—ups for this summer. We hope to add more to the list in the coming weeks. Take a look below at what might work for your family.

If you want to add your summer program to the guide, email us at

Summer Discovery Pre-College Experiences

Summer Discovery has more than 55 years in the summer experience industry and has provided superior pre-college programs for 40+ years. Today, we’re the leading pre-college experience provider for middle and high school students. In partnership with prestigious universities across the US, UK, and Singapore, we deliver on-campus experiences and online learning opportunities. We offer 300+ pre-college courses, including college credit and non-credit enrichment, taught exclusively by university instructors. Popular programs include UCLA, Michigan, Georgetown, Cambridge, and University of Pennsylvania. Learn more at

Summer Discovery
Contact: Halley Campbell

Day Camps

Camp Ramaquoisramaquois

Camp Ramaquois is not like every other camp. Our day camp for boys and girls ages 3 to 15 in Pomona, NY (only 30 minutes from the George Washington Bridge and 15 minutes from the Mario Cuomo Bridge) provides a truly authentic camp experience. Our magnificent 44 acres, 5-acre lake, 9 heated swimming pools, and exceptional facilities and programs allow us to provide children with a dynamic and memorable summer filled with love, warmth, and being part of a special community. Our campers are encouraged to take healthy risks, learn new skills, develop relationships with their peers and counselors, develop independence and assume responsibility.

Camp Ramaquois
30 Mountain Road
Pomona, NY 10970

Squire Advantage and Squire Sports Camp

squires2020Squire Advantage and Squire Sports Camps at Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale is celebrating its 48th year and is the proud recipient of the first ever Westchester Country Inspector Choice Award! Courses are taught by certified teachers and hot lunch is included. Squire Advantage Primary (grades K-3) and Advantage Choice (grades 4-9) is created for campers who wish to custom design their own schedule by choosing courses in the fields of swimming, computers, sports, fine arts, science, cooking, music and more. There are more than 50 different activities to choose from! Squire Sports Camps are divided into two different sports programs. Squire All Sports Academy (ages 6-15) allows for instructing and playing of many different types of sports throughout the day. Sports include tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball, football, etc. Squire Tennis Academy (ages 6-15) is a fun and challenging tennis experience designed for beginners to experienced players. Squire Camps programs run from June 28th until August 13th, 2021.

Squire Camps
Maria Regina High School
Hartsdale, NY
(914) 328-3798
Matt Davanzo – Director


The Music Conservatory of Westchester


The Music Conservatory of Westchester will spark your child’s creativity with quality instruction in music, dance, and art in Summer Music & Arts. Kids grades K-7 enjoy fun, interactive classes to experiment with music, learn to play piano, guitar, and violin, write songs, create art, dance, and make new friends. Three 2-week sessions start June 28 - August 6, 2021. Health and safety guidelines are in place. All classes are taught in small groups by our world-class faculty. New offerings for elementary and middle school students include ukulele, intros to Jazz, Blues, and South American Music, an instrumental jam session, and more! Our summer Suzuki Beginner Special also returns this summer to start kids ages 4+ learning violin, cello, and piano with this proven and effective music instruction technique. Summer is better with music!

Music Conservatory of Westchester
216 Central Avenue

White Plains, NY 10606


For the Younger Set

Beth El Day Camp

pooledgeBeth El Day Camp in New Rochelle is the place to be for children ages 2-8! Widely recognized as the best-in-class day camp in Westchester, Beth El continues to be the most fun, most trusted choice for young campers and their parents, year after year. Join us Monday, June 28 through Friday, August 20, 2021. We offer before and after camp care 7am-7pm. Campers love the sports, especially tennis, swimming twice a day in the pool, towel service, music, art, nature, STEM, yoga, karate, our delicious lunches, and much more! Proudly accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), we are also known for our nurturing environment, cutting-edge programming, and commitment to safety. We have the county's finest, best-trained professional staff and a very favorable child to staff ratio. Whether this is your child's first camp experience or not, at Beth El everything begins with love and ends in fun.

Arts and Theater Program for Kids 9 - 12BethEl

New this year! Announcing our arts and theater program in four or eight-week sessions for kids ages 9-12  with extensive programming in visual arts, theater, dance, magic, and the option to swim. With a limited enrollment, your child will be part of a nurturing camp community where they can express themselves creatively and meet like-minded friends.

Beth El Day Camp
1324 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10804
(914) 235-2700 ext. 256

Scarsdale SynagogueSSTTESumerPhoto

Scarsdale Synagogue's Summer Stars Program is the perfect summer experience for young children. This warm and nurturing seven-week summer program is for children 18 months to 5 years old. The children are engaged in activities such as sports, music, art, story time, daily water play and much, much more. There are special theme days each week such as Circus Day, Hawaiian Day or Carnival Day. At Summer Stars, friendships are formed and children grow socially, emotionally and intellectually as they engage in fun, stimulating summer activities. There is a three-day option for toddlers ages 18 to 30 months. Two year-olds may choose a three-day option or attend five mornings a week. Three to 5 year-olds may choose a half-day, 9am -12 noon option or a full day option from 9am - 2pm. Your child will sparkle and shine at Summer Stars! In an effort to keep our students and staff healthy during the Covid-19 Pandemic we are taking all necessary health and safety precautions according to NYS Department of Health, NYSOCFS and CDC Guidelines. Contact Jody Glassman, Early Childhood Director, at or call 914-723-3001. Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-El is a reform Jewish congregation located at 2 Ogden Road, Scarsdale.

Scarsdale Synagogue Summer Stars
2 Ogden Road
Scarsdale, NY

Westchester Reform Temple


Westchester Reform Temple's Summer Play Place Camp offers young children (starting at 18 months through 4 years) a unique 7-week summer experience. Our professional, certified staff of teachers provide arts and crafts, water-play, stories, games, sports, lots of outdoor activities, theme days and snack within a nurturing and loving environment. Our three and four-year-old campers stay for lunch and more afternoon play. Join us at the Summer Play Place Camp. Your children will learn, laugh and flourish. For more information contact or

Summer Play Place Camp
255 Mamaroneck Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583

Close to Home

Scarsdale Recreation Summer Day Camp

The Scarsdale Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation will be offering our traditional camp scarsdalepoolprograms this Summer. At the time of this publication, the Department is working with the Scarsdale School District regarding facilities and specific locations will be advertised once finalized. Also, please note that our camps will be operating out of an abundance of caution pertaining to COVID and will following all guidance and regulations put forth by the CDC, NYS and Westchester County Department of Health to ensure all campers and staff are safe during these uncertain times. We will be offering our traditional four camps including recreational and educational programs with daily swimming at the Scarsdale Pool. The four camps accommodate approximately 900 children from Kindergarten to Grade 8. Camp Sagamore is for children entering Kindergarten, Camp Lenape for First Graders, Camp Wapetuck for Second Graders and Camp Patthunke is for kids in Third through Eighth grades. The season runs from Monday, July 6 to Friday, August 7, from 9am - 3:30pm. There are also combination camps for third-eighth graders who can choose soccer or sports camp in the morning and regular day camp in the afternoon.

At this time, the Scarsdale Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation is waiting for further guidance from the Westchester County Department of Health for regulations regarding travel camps so no decision has been made as of this publication. Additional information will be posted on our Village of Scarsdale website at a later date.

Scarsdale Recreation Camp
Phone: (914) 722-1160

To add your summer program to our guide email us at

RachellePhotoRachelle Gage, a 2012 graduate of Scarsdale High School, has just published her second children’s book. “Jacob’s Extraordinary Day,” written and illustrated by Gage, was inspired by her autistic brother and his “super senses.” The story follows Jacob and his class as they plan their school's Annual Spring Jam. Jacob ultimately inspires his class to embrace their creativity through a day full of fun and exciting activities.

Rachelle is also the author and illustrator of “The Fantastic Pups.” Her books include themes of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance.

Gage says that her teachers at SHS supported her talents, especially in her AP art class. She says, “I was so happy to have more art incorporated into my school schedule and would even eat lunch in the art room to continue my projects.”

Gage worked as a graphic designer at a fashion company for four years until the COVID crisis caused the company to eliminate the design department. She says, “It was hard at first, but I learned to be resilient, and began working freelance jobs. I really enhanced my work over the past year. I most recently designed the logo and did the illustrations for a new law website and I am currently working on the marketing campaign. I found that continuing to create art helped keep me busy during lockdown. It was during this time that I decided to finally start my second book. While this past year has been difficult and abnormal, I am grateful for the ongoing support from my family and friends.Jacobs Extraordinary Day Cover copy

Rachelle has experience in drawing, photography, and crochet. When she is not working on her art and design, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and obstacle races.

Purchase your copy of “Jacob’s Extraordinary Day” on Amazon here.

snowtreesA two day snowstorm from Sunday January 31 to February 2 compounded by another snowfall on Sunday February 7 has left Scarsdale glazed in white. Kids are sledding, building snowmen and helping their parents shovel paths and driveways. With more snow expected this week, clearing the front walk has become a daily chore. 

Thanks to Debra Asher, BK Munguia and Vinnie Phuah for sharing these lovely snow photos. Add yours to our snow gallery by emailing your pictures to





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