My Weekend with the Shems

My Weekend with the Shems

I’ve been looking forward to Leah’s Bat Mitzvah for over a year!  I had worked with the Shems at their son Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah three years earlier and it was so much fun.  I knew this one would be a blast!  And despite Nemo working hard to make a mess of things, Leah’s Bat Mitzvah was a fun as promised…one day later.


Leah’s Bat Mitzvah was scheduled for Saturday, February 9.  Anyone near New England (or with a TV, computer or radio) knows that was exactly when Blizzard Nemo dumped several feel of snow on the Northeast.  Knowing the storm was approaching, I was in contact with Leah’s mom Alicia on Friday.  I was most worried about driving conditions that wouldn’t allow me to get to them.  Alicia, quite off the cuff said, “Do you want to stay here Friday?”  “Oh no, that’s not necessary,” was my first thought.  But as the reports started getting more drastic, and a travel ban was looming, the panic set it.  I thought, “There is no way I’m missing this Bat Mitzvah.”  Next thing you know, I’m packing a bag and heading to the Shems’ house for a sleepover.


But Nikki!  Didn’t you feel awkward sleeping at a stranger’s house???  Now that the weekend is over, I can tell you as I drove to the Shems house….YES…I was so uncomfortable!  But the second I arrived, the entire family made me feel completely welcomed.  The Shems were so gracious and kind.  They made me feel like a beloved house guest rather than the house crasher I really was.  By the time snack time and movie night was over and we were sitting down to Shabbat dinner, I was ready to move in.


In the end, Nemo was even bigger than expected.  The only safe option was to push the entire event to the next day.  And though sad, Leah was a real trooper about the entire business.  She’s such a lovely and poised young lady.  Of course, with a travel ban still in effect, I wasn’t going anywhere.  So off I went, camera in hand searching for some fun snowy imagery.  I didn’t have to go far either!  Below, are some of my favorite photos of my walk around their neighborhood…


When the travel ban lifted, it was time for me to head back home.  Although the Shems did offer to put me up another night!  And it was tempting.  They were baking cookies and planning BBQ for dinner.  Yum!  But I pulled myself away and got home to my own snowy house.  After a good night’s sleep, I was ready for Leah’s Bat Mitzvah…take two!  And because the celebration was held on a Sunday, I had the added bonus of permission to take photos in the sanctuary during the ceremony.  That was a treat!  The entire temple was filled with beautiful, natural light.  It made for splendid family photos!

The celebration was fantastic!  People were so happy to be out of their houses and celebrating with Leah, the energy was amazing.  Everyone had a great time.  And Leah finally got the party she deserved.  I was thrilled to be a part of it and I’m even more thrilled to share this slide show.  What saddens me however, is knowing the Shems do not have any more children (despite my trying to convince them to adopt me).  That means no more Mitzvahs.  Sigh.  So…I guess….I’ll see you at the weddings?


  1. Nikki,
    you captured the weekend perfectly!!
    The pictures are wonderful.
    Mazel Tov Shems’!

    • amazing! And you are welcome to come for snack and movie night any time! thank you so much!

  2. Marlene and Gerry Katz


    Your story and pictures were so beautiful. We felt as if we were re-living that magical day. You captured the love and joy that surrounded Nessy, Alicia, Matt and LEAH!!!!

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