Jacqueline and Steven Herman are lucky grandparents. The bris of their new grandson took place in their Englewood home. All the other guests watched on Zoom.
Herman said she didn’t know what to expect with a Zoom bris, or how she’d feel. “I was a little tentative but it was quite nice; it turned out nicer than I could have imagined,” she said.
The Hermans’ daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Josh, who live in Brooklyn, had to choreograph their lives before the birth. Rebecca spent the last few weeks before delivering living with her parents, while Josh, a physician, stayed at home and attended to patients, before beginning his quarantine. After the birth, they quarantined in Brooklyn and then returned to Englewood. “There was a lot of planning for this bris,” said Herman. “I didn’t see the baby for a week.”
Herman said her duties were negligible. “I offered my home, and I tried to make it as festive as I could,” she said. “I got a platter of food, flowers and balloons.”
Josh arranged all the logistics and the technology. After making the arrangements with the mohel, he sent out an invitation with a link to the Zoom event. On the day of the bris, he did an IT check in advance, placing the computer on a high chair near the table where the baby would be, and making sure the camera was in focus. When everything was ready, he turned the camera on. There was one hiccup: He forgot to mute everyone who entered.
He advises anyone making a Zoom bris to be prepared well in advance so the bris can start on time. “At a synagogue, if people are running late it’s not a big deal, but with a Zoom bris, people get anxious if they can’t get in and think it’s not working,” he said. “They start texting the host.”
In all other ways, the bris was very traditional. After the procedure, the mohel sang Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov. Josh gave a speech thanking everyone, and announced the baby’s English name—Joseph Irving. That was an emotional time for Herman; the baby’s middle name is for her father, who passed away this year.
Herman enjoyed the bris more than she thought she would. “I got to see how many people came out for us. They expressed themselves in many ways; people sent messages and balloons. We’re lucky to be part of such a nice community and to have such wonderful family and friends.”
When Tamar Druck and Andrew Cohn of Riverdale had a bris for their now 3-year-old son Noah, many close friends and family were unable to attend. At the bris for their second son, born just before Pesach, guests Zoomed in from Israel, Cleveland, Washington and California.
“They were just as much a part of it as our parents and people from Queens and New York City,” said Tamar. Andrew said they got a lot of positive feedback from people excited that they could attend. “Many noted it was the most close-up they had ever been to a bris.” The one person who wasn’t invited was Noah. They were told to keep him away so he spent the bris in his room watching Sesame Street.
The mohel gave them the signal to start the video when he was finished prepping the baby. Tamar carried the baby in and the bris began. There was an intermission of sorts when they turned the video off so the mohel could instruct them on how to care for the baby post-bris. During that time the guests chatted and sang.
Tamar and Andrew didn’t know the baby’s gender before the birth so they were ready with several names. For the Hebrew name, they chose Moshe Raphael. Raphael, for the angel of health, to bring health to the world in this time, and Moshe in recognition of the birth taking place just before Pesach. The baby’s English name is Max.
The Zoom bris was not only a celebration; it was a respite from the anxiety everyone is going through. “It was an activity, a welcome distraction,” said Tamar. “A nice reminder for people that there is still happiness going on.”
By Bracha Schwartz