Brooklyn Family Builds an Ark for a Home, and Homemade, Bat Mitzvah


If you can’t make it to the synagogue, make the synagogue at home.

That’s what Talya Landesberg’s family decided ahead of her Feb. 27 Zoom bat mitzvah at their home in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

When the Landesbergs learned that the virus would  keep them from holding Talya’s bat mitzvah in the sanctuary of their synagogue, the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill, they decided to build an ark to house the Torah they’d borrow for the service.

After a stop at Home Depot for wood, stain and other supplies, Talya, her father and brother began work on a nearly six-foot-tall ark with turned table legs, ornate trim, Star of David accents and a cloth curtain, or parokhet.

“When I first started preparing for my bat mitzvah, I never imagined it would be in our house. And when we learned that we could use a Torah from the synagogue, we knew that we had to make a special place for it,” said Talya, an eighth-grader at the Boerum Hill School for International Studies.

Talya’s paternal grandmother, Ellen Landesberg, drew and designed the curtain, a scene of a fiery Mount Sinai accented with the 12 gems of the High Priest’s breast plate.

With the synagogue furnishings in place, the Landesbergs won’t have to worry about personnel. Talya’s grandfather, Cantor David Lefkowitz, cantor emeritus of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, will be chanting the Shabbat morning service, and Talya will chant her Torah portions and Musaf, the additional service. Cantor Sarah Myerson and Rabbi Samuel Weintraub of Kane Street Synagogue will be leading the overall service remotely.

Other guests will be attending, remotely, from the U.S., Israel and Europe.

The ark will get plenty of use, at least during the pandemic.

“I am excited that after my bat mitzvah we will pass the ark on to other families celebrating their bar and bat mitzvahs in their homes,” said Talya.