Skip to main content

Welcoming New Life with a Virtual Bris

Life doesn’t stop for a global pandemic. For couples who are expecting a baby, this is certainly true. In the wake of the coronavirus, many families are getting creative and finding new ways to continue to honor Jewish tradition and welcome their little one.

Stephanie Perri from Houston, Texas, was one of the first to rethink how to approach a bris for her baby at the beginning of the quarantine. She and her husband Dan welcomed their new son Gabriel on March 13 and hosted an “e-bris.” Here’s what she shared with us.

Tell us a little bit about your family.

I’m the Jewish partner. My husband Dan is Catholic. We live in a suburb of Houston, TX, where both my husband and I work at Johnson Space Center. We are raising our kids (Rebecca who just turned 3, and Gabriel the new addition) exclusively Jewish.

We’ve been connected to 18Doors (formerly InterfaithFamily) since 2013 when we used your Jewish Clergy Referral Service to help us find a wonderful rabbi for our wedding.

What were your original plans for a ceremony before Gabriel was born?

We did not find out the sex of either of our kids before birth, but I had some tentative ideas of how I would do a bris if we needed one. I guess having to adjust to doing this virtually wasn’t a big disappointment for me because I hadn’t spent months specifically dreaming of having a bris done a certain way.

Who was there for the bris and who did the circumcision? 

We had only my husband and me and our children, plus my parents present. My husband’s parents were in town (from Virginia) to watch our older kid for the birth and decided to go back home due to the worsening Coronavirus concerns- they were worried they would get stuck here if they didn’t leave.

My parents flew out right after the birth from Florida, and my dad who is an OB/Gyn did the actual cut. We debated whether it was safe to fly but they took a lot of precautions and hand sanitizer and, this was in the earlier days of the outbreak before many things shut down. The rabbi at our Conservative synagogue presided remotely through Zoom as well.

Who did you invite to join virtually?

We invited the rest of the family (siblings, grandparents, etc) as well as a bunch of our (mainly not Jewish) friend group to join virtually, and sent an announcement/info to our synagogue membership as well. We had about 40 accounts log in, most with more than one person on the other end.

What tips do you have to share about hosting a baby naming ceremony or bris virtually?

  • Get a Zoom Premium subscription to get more features like recording of your call, larger participant capacity, and longer call duration. It’s only $15 a month which is much cheaper than bagels for 50, and you can just cancel it after you use it.
  • Start the video call early for people who aren’t good with technology to get set up. We had a few older relatives log in right on time and had to address their technical difficulties before we could start.
  • Task someone else to get screenshots of all the attendees and a list. We got screenshots of one page of the gallery but missed almost half of the participants. Zoom also has a way to track attendees but you have to set that up in advance and we didn’t know to do it. I would also recommend that you get screenshots of the ceremony. We totally forgot to do that. I grabbed some stills from the recording but the quality isn’t great. I even did my hair and there’s barely a record!

Virtual Bris

What advice would you share with parents who are disappointed that they can’t have the ceremony they imagined?

Don’t forget the silver lining: This was certainly easier than having 50 people in my house or scrambling to rent event space a week after having a baby. And now we can throw a welcome baby party at a more convenient time, like when I’m getting more than four cumulative hours of sleep a night. Also, more relatives were able to watch online than would have been able to fly out to celebrate.

Beyond the bris ceremony, what other advice do you have for parents right now?

Having a new baby is always hard, but especially if you don’t have the help you expected/hoped to have (grandparents, friends, a meal train, etc). If takeout is an option in your area, get some and give yourself a break some nights (plus it helps struggling local restaurants!). And look into parent groups in your area. I did a mommy and me exercise class with my first, and they are still doing virtual exercise classes and meet ups. Not the same as in-person, but better than nothing. And when things open back up, you will have new friends to see.

This one I’m still struggling with myself, but let go of the expectations you had for maternity leave (if you normally work) and embrace the opportunity to have nobody demanding your time (other than your baby/kids) and nobody wanting to visit your messy house.

Nicole Wasilus

Nicole takes pride in directing the Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service which helps connect over 4,000+ couples and families annually to interfaith-friendly rabbis and cantors as 18Doors’ Director of Lifecycle Connections. She began her career working for Hillel after graduating from Penn State University in 2011. Nicole received her Masters in Public Administration with a focus in Nonprofit Management from the University of Delaware in 2017. She was recognized in 2020 as a Jewish change-maker in a time of crisis by New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36.” When she’s not working, Nicole loves exploring new restaurants in Philadelphia with her husband, seeing independent movies, and taking her Insta-famous dog to the park.