When planning their son Sam’s bar mitzvah reception on Sept. 25, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth and his wife Becky catered to their son’s interest in Pokémon, a Japanese media franchise based on the popular video game and its colorful trading cards and toys. Dale Jacoby, a TKE member and event planner with the Southern Company, understood Becky’s vision for the reception centerpieces. She incorporated Pokémon elements that also were part of the Pokémon cake, created by their neighbor, Allie Marbach, of Cakeology.
To understand why Pokémon and its theme song mean so much to Sam and his family, the rabbi related that at the age of four months, his son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease, familial dysautonomia. “Sam is one of only 637 people in the world ever diagnosed with this disease, which affects body function, blood pressure, and sensitivity to pain,” he said. The younger Sernovitz has spent years with an assembled health team at NYU Medical Center in New York City, where research on this disease is conducted.
“Sam is an amazing kid. He has had to deal with so many doctors throughout the years. There is no cure for his disease, but there is treatment now, and for him to accomplish becoming a bar mitzvah was quite an achievement,” his father said. When his son told him the Pokémon theme song lyrics started with “I want to be the best that I can be,” the rabbi decided with Sam that the theme song would be what the approximately 60 guests would hear as the bar mitzvah boy entered the reception tent.
The Havdalah service took place in TKE’s sanctuary, while the reception was held outdoors, in a large tent set up in the back of the synagogue. Several close family members and relatives traveled from distant cities to attend. Having lived in the New Jersey-Philadelphia area before moving to Marietta, many of those who had been part of Sam’s medical journey also attended to give him their love and support. His kindergarten teacher, who has been his mentor to this day, along with doctors and a physical therapist who are now like family, shared in the celebration.
The bar mitzvah was held during Sukkot. Rabbi Sernovitz, who doubled as his son’s bar mitzvah tutor, explained that this particular Jewish festival was chosen because both events involve special visitors and guests. Sam said, “the most important part of my bar mitzvah was having so many of the important people in my life be here with me on that day.” Although his paternal grandmother Diane died when he was only seven months old, Sam remembered her during the Yizkor service. His father says that Sam carries his maternal grandfather’s name, Solomon, along with his namesake’s generosity of spirit. In his D’var Torah, Sam spoke about how “Moses felt G-d’s presence when things got tough, giving us courage and strength.”
Andy Baron of Yum Catering in Roswell prepared the food for the event. He was recommended by friends who recognized his creativity. Sushi, spring rolls, and a variety of appetizers and a vegetarian spread of brie, pineapple, grilled cheese and a tomato soup station were on offer. For dessert, there was the Pokémon cake.
For his tallit, Sam went to TKE member Meg Fisher’s home to select the colors and fabric for his prayer shawl. On the atarah, she embroidered the bar mitzvah boy’s favorite prayer, the Shema. Sam’s parents and his two sisters, Daniella and Eden, tied the four corner fringes to complete the tallit.
On the Friday night preceding the bar mitzvah, a service and Oneg Shabbat took place in the synagogue’s courtyard. Glenn Prince Photography from Alpharetta captured the bar mitzvah ceremony and reception. Arriving with the rabbi’s family at the start of the bar mitzvah weekend was his brother Dan Sernovitz, who came in from Virginia with his girlfriend Amy Muhlberg. Dan officially proposed to Amy that evening, making their engagement an additional joyous occasion, another simcha to celebrate with the extended family.
Event Vendor List
Cake: Allie Marbach, Cakeology — Marietta
Caterer: Andy Baron, Yum Catering — Roswell
Centerpieces & Décor: Dale Jacoby, The Southern Company Event Planner — Atlanta
Photography: Glenn Prince Photography — Alpharetta
Tallit: Meg Fisher, Elite Tallit — Marietta
- Flora Rosefsky
- STYLE Magazine
- Bar Mitzvah
- Havdalah service
- Sam Sernovitz
- Rabbi Larry Sernovitz
- Temple Kol Emeth
- Gwen Freedman
- Ameetha Annesse
- Becky Sernovitz
- Meg Fisher
- Allie Marbach
- Glenn Prince Photography
- Andy Baron
- Yum! catering
- familial dysautonomia
- NYU Medical Center
- Dale Jacoby
- The Southern Company Event planning
- L’dor v’dor
- Daniella Sernovitz
- Edith Sernovitz
- Elite Tallit
- Harvey and Addie Schneider
- Dan Sernovitz
- Amy Muhlberg
- Bar/Bat Mitzvahs