How lucky for me that my great nephew, Jack Yunis, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Miami this past weekend, when back home in New York the snow and cold continued. I was happy to leave the city I love for a few days to warm my soul and body at this bittersweet celebration that my beloved Stu would have relished. Family always came first for him and he was sorely missed.
Since the Bar Mitzvah boy’s grandma Marilyn lives in a Miami condo complex that has a hotel, The Grove Isle, all the guests stayed there, so a bus could bring us to the synagogue on Saturday and then the party Saturday night.
The Grove Isle Hotel sits on Biscayne Bay, with a pool overlooking the waterway. Although I wasn’t there to “lounge,” I was able to chill out after the beautiful services and between parties. I even got a bonus, because my flight home was delayed and I stayed an extra day.
Having a Bar Mitzvah means a boy of 13 becomes a “man” in the eyes of the Jewish faith. Temple Beth Am in Miami, where the services were held, is a large, impressive building with a congregation led by a female cantor with a luscious voice and an eloquent female rabbi. It’s very unusual to have two women running a synagogue, but in the Reform congregations it’s more common. I was very impressed with the joyous, sensitive and engaging ceremony and the prayer book that not only had the prayers, but every page had margins filled with powerful thoughts from leaders from many worlds.
For example, in the margins were the words of Norman Lear, the producer: “Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.” And Rabbi Leo Baeck is quoted in the book saying “If there is any miracle in the world, any mystery, it is individuality.” There were 100 more! I was never as immersed in a prayer book before!
Several times during the service the rabbi and cantor had us all clapping our hands to the music, reflecting the joyousness of the occasion. We were all engaged in the morning service and enjoyed every minute in supporting Jack as he read his portion of the Torah to the congregants. It was a very powerful hour-and-a-half.
In the evening, his parents and grandparents had arranged for a unique party to celebrate both the day and Jack himself. The bus dropped us off at what seemed like an enormous open parking lot filled on one side by colorfully painted trailers and the other side a tent with seating for the guests. It turned out the space is actually the Microtheaters at the Cuban
Cultural Center, where small audiences watch Spanish language 15 minute movies in the trailer/ theatres!
The indoor part of the party was in a contiguous building that became a party space at night and was a high- end rental car service by day. On the floor was a Maserati, a Rolls Royce, a Bentley and a sports Mercedes . . . you get the idea. In fact, when Justin Bieber was in town he rented his “fancy” car here. The big open indoor space had wall hangings from many artists, many in the style of Andy Warhol. What a unique and fabulous party, energized by a rocking DJ who had us all dancing. And the photo booth was a big hit!
It was a weekend to remember and a trip that I know my late husband Stu would have loved. I was glad I could be there for him. He was with me . . .
Jack Yunis (right) with his cousin Josh after the services
Jim Broner with the “Silver Girls!” at the party
Jon Yunis with Hillary, daughter Jillian and me posing for the photo booth
Zoe Easton and I had fun in the photo booth
Mimi Broner with the guest of honor, Jack Yunis
Jillian with Josh and Ben