Ask Miriam | Bris During Pandemic Creates Issues

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Close-up of unrecognizable cute baby shaking feet while lying in bed, innocence concept
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Dear Miriam,

How does one host a bris during social distancing?

Signed,


Expecting

Dear Expecting,

B’sha’ah tova! Becoming a parent requires a great deal of flexibility in dealing with unexpected circumstances. And that’s in the best of times, which these are clearly not.

Planning a bris can be a stressful experience in the best of times, too, but here we are. The good news for you is that lots of babies have already been born since social distancing started, so there’s some collective wisdom out there from parents who have been through this already.

One of the first zoom gatherings I went to, in fact, after this all started, was a bris. (For my nephew! He’s adorable!) We all know a lot more now, almost two months later, about what’s possible in virtual gatherings, as well as the limitations of trying to celebrate through a screen.

Managing your own expectations is vital; this will not be the bris you pictured for your son. But you can (and will, I’m sure of it) find a way to have a meaningful celebration of your son’s life and your family’s connection to Judaism.

Even if we weren’t in a pandemic, I would recommend to any expectant parent to connect with other parents who just had or who are about to have a baby. Those connections are crucial for parents. Social media is great for finding groups and listservs and networks. Start asking around, and I’m sure you will quickly find people who have already planned a pandemic bris.

If you haven’t already, find a mohel, and then talk to the mohel about other bris ceremonies he (or she) has already done during social distancing. The mohel will be your expert on what to expect about all of it, and he may even be able to connect you with other families who have had a bris recently. Share your concerns and ask as many questions as you need to. Again, that would be my advice, pandemic or not, but the mohel will surely have seen how a lot of families have handled these extenuating circumstances. 

As for the bris itself, you can invite family and friends to join by video conferencing to experience the whole bris ceremony. Ideally, you’ll need someone to be in charge of the technology, though, so you can have your focus on the baby. Or, you can just have the mohel and the people living in your household present for a real-time, non-virtual bris, and you can invite a larger group to a virtual gathering afterward to show off the baby and get everyone to say mazel tov. 

There is no right or wrong choice for how to handle any of this. These are truly unprecedented circumstances, and there is no playbook for what to do.

Talk through the choices with key family members and the mohel, and then move forward on a plan that feels manageable. One of the lines at a bris roughly translates to, “May he grow to enjoy a life that includes Torah, family, and good deeds.”

God willing, this will be only one simcha (happy occasion) in a life full of simchas, and there will be lots of opportunities for non-social distancing celebrations with the people you love. 

 

Be well,

Miriam

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