Congregation Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn is holding simchas with indoor, outdoor and hybrid configurations to make everyone comfortable. People are making different choices, said Milty Frank, who has been in charge of Shomrei Torah’s simcha rentals since 1983. Indoor events have been allowed since the beginning of July, and going forward, the shul is taking reservations for indoor events. But since children are not vaccinated, many are opting for all-outdoor or hybrid events.
Shomrei Torah expanded its outdoor capabilities after purchasing a property behind the shul a few years ago. Tents measuring 30’ x 60’ in the backyard garden area and 80’ x 30’ in the parking lot can hold up to 200 people with standard seating. A service can take place in the recently renovated sanctuary, and dancing can be held in the ballroom or in a tent on the paved parking lot.
Meals have largely transitioned from being served in individually presented boxes, back to chafing dishes served by staff. Hosts can choose from four different caterers listed on the website and bring in their own vendors for music, décor and photography/video.
When Renee Zimbalist planned her daughter Nikki’s bat mitzvah in May, restrictions were just beginning to be relaxed. After realizing her original choice of venue didn’t have large enough tents for the challah-making party she had in mind, she turned to Shomrei Torah, where women and girls could be in separate tents.
With the guidance of popular educator Jordana Baruchov, who led the event, Renee prepared individually packaged bowls for each guest with ingredients measured and wrapped, a laminated recipe card, a bottle of water to use for the dough and another for drinking. The bat mitzvah’s logo was printed on a towel to cover the dough while it was rising, on an apron, and on a bag for guests to take home their newly formed challah, supplies and toppings.
Party planner Leah Wasserman helped choose colors and arranged the supplies on tables for a festive look. In case of a glare on the front screen with the directions, a photo montage with QR code on each table enabled guests to get the directions on their phones, while listening to Jordana explain what to do and why challah making is an important mitzvah. There was no food at the event, but each guest took home a cupcake—Nikki’s favorite—decorated with her logo. The party was Zoomed to friends and relatives who couldn’t attend.
Renee said Shomrei Torah was a pleasure to work with and made sure everything was set up perfectly for her 150 guests. “Nikki had her dress made, her hair and makeup done and formal portraits. She had a blast.”
Shomrei Torah Financial VP Larry Bravman and his wife, Nancy, had a few weeks’ notice to plan a June engagement party for their daughter Amy and her fiancé, Andrew Levine. They initially wanted the party at home in the family’s backyard. But after considering the possibility of bad weather—and the 140 people on their invitation list—they decided to make the nighttime party at Shomrei Torah.
“Shevy Yudin (Rebbetzin emeritus) has a flair for decorating, and she helped us choose tablecloths and flowers for centerpieces,” Bravman said. “Our son strung lights around the perimeter of the property and we set up tables with drinks, salads, wraps, fruit and pastries. We had the perfect mix of environment, occasion and people who, free from COVID restrictions, were happy to celebrate our simcha with us.”
For information about hosting an event at Shomrei Torah, visit https://www.shomrei-torah.org/rentals.
By Bracha Schwartz