A Lego mitzvah

How the toy shaped the growth of a Woodland student


Attendees at Shane Weiner’s Jan. 18 bar mitzvah were immediately greeted by the Taj Mahal. No, the 13-year-old Woodland Middle School student did not have a destination ceremony in India. His bar mitzvah was held at the Bridgeview Yacht Club in Island Park, and Shane handcrafted all of the event’s centerpieces himself — using Legos.

The ceremony had been held beforehand at Temple Emanu-El in East Meadow, the family’s local synagogue, but in the catering hall, a row of Lego monuments were carefully arranged, in custom-made cases. A recorded narration guided viewers from one to the next, detailing the number of pieces involved and how Shane built each one. Included in the tour was a replica of a British World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane (800 pieces), a pirate ship (1,965), the Star Wars Imperial Space Shuttle (2,500), a 1930s English street complete with a town hall, fire brigade and grand emporium (10,500), the London Bridge (4,300) and the centerpiece Taj Mahal (6,000).

The script was written by Shane and narrated by Chris Laybourne of the Chris Laybourne Orchestra, who performed during the party and who has lent his voice to television commercials. “Somebody said they felt like they were going through the Smithsonian,” said Shane’s mother Amy Weiner, a first-grade math teacher in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District.

Shane has been building Legos since he was 6, making his very first set — 27 pieces — during the East Meadow School District’s after-school Creative Arts Program. “And I finished it before the teacher,” he recalled.

It took off quickly from there. By age 7, Shane was completing sets aimed for those 18 and older, and soon moved on to multi-thousand-piece sets that were so intricate they could only be ordered online.

While Legos are often considered a transitory hobby for children, eventually outgrown and swapped for something else, for Shane they are much more. As an infant he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a mix of psoriasis and arthritis often found in adults. “When he was 11 months old, literally overnight his fingers blew up to sausages,” Amy said.

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