CHARLOTTE, VA — Just as Mikayla Wasserman, age 13, began to chant the maftir portion at her bat mitzvah, she was interrupted by a sound from the far back corner of the sanctuary. At 11:46 on Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Shalom, Nick Thomsen, Mikayla’s piano teacher, was opening a Sunkist fruit gem, which he had just been handed by Mikayla’s younger cousin, Isabella.
“I thought it was nice of them to give out snacks,” said Thomsen, who had been seated by himself in services since the start time listed on the invitation, regardless of the fact that even the Wasserman family wasn’t there until 45 minutes later. “I meant to open it quietly, but all of a sudden, the whole room had turned around and was looking at me.”
“It was super distracting,” Mikayla commented after the service was over, as she straightened the white half-length cardigan she wore over her purple strapless dress and draped her silver sparkly Tallit over a chair in the social hall. “I mean, I was able to get back on track by doing what my tutor Cantor Sherri taught me. I took a deep breath, visualized my color-coded binder with the words in English, and kept going.”
Mikayla expressed gratitude that Thomsen, who has been her teacher for three years, was present at her bat mitzvah – Mikayla’s mother Jody, however, felt differently. “Of course I saw Nick,” she said, “He was wearing a polo shirt. A polo shirt in a synagogue, can you imagine? And he had the nerve to open the candy before the haftorah. Didn’t he read the handout where we explained how the service goes, exactly for this reason? Or he couldn’t have looked around and seen that no one else was eating them? I’m going to have to give him a call this week.”
Thomsen already has plans to remedy his mistake. “I felt so bad about disrupting Mikayla,” he said, “that I’m going to donate an extra set of watercolors to her mitzvah project of sending art supplies to kids in Central America.”
Mikayla’s 10 year old brother Benjy seemed to show support for Thomsen’s heinous actions. “While everyone was looking at Mr. Thomsen, me and my friend Zack snuck out a whole basket of candies and ate them behind the couch in the lobby.”
Thomsen shared his regrets at instigating the entire fiasco. “Those candies are nasty. And why are they so loud, anyway?”