Tips for a Successful Virtual Bris

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we gather to celebrate, commemorate, and mourn. For parents who are welcoming a new baby boy into the covenant through the mitzvah of brit milah or milah l’shem gerut, the restrictions on social gathering have had a significant impact on how a bris can be celebrated. Fortunately, there is a wonderful array of technology solutions that can help bring people together to celebrate.
The need to include people who cannot be present in person has been there for decades. In the more distant past, family from out of town would often listen on the phone, and more recently the invention of video conferencing via Skype and similar platforms allowed people from faraway places like Israel to view the bris virtually. In the past few years the technology has improved through platforms like Zoom, Go To Meeting or Microsoft Teams so that large groups of people can be present online, and can participate more fully in the ceremony. This document gives a number of suggestions for using virtual technology to make the bris as meaningful as possible.



Most people have email accounts, and this is an excellent way to notify people when the bris will be and to provide them with a link. For those who do not have email or computer skills, particularly elderly people who are in long-term care facilities that may be “locked down”, a phone number can be provided that will allow them to join the virtual bris.


It is best to ask someone who is not directly involved in the ceremony, and who is tech savvy, to host the virtual session. This person should have the following responsibilities

  1. Admitting people into the session from the waiting room
  2. Making sure everyone is on mute if they’re not speaking or otherwise participating
  3. Making sure the session is being recorded if you wish to have a video record of the bris
  4. Monitoring the chat section
  5. Trouble shooting any technical problems that anyone is having
  6. Making sure that there is no one “Zoom bombing” or entering the session without permission


Managing the device

It is preferable to use a computer over a phone or iPad, since the resolution and sound are better, and more people can be seen in Gallery mode at the same time. Seeing all those faces on the screen provides a wonderful sense of warmth and community.

The best place for the computer to be positioned is to the side of the table where the bris will be performed, so that the sandek, the mohel and the parents can all be seen by the participants. The computer should be far enough away that everyone is visible, and the actual circumcision cannot be well seen. The volume should be set to maximum.


The ceremony

The ceremony can be done in the same way as one would do for an in-person bris. However, there are number of modifications that must be considered for a virtual bris during the pandemic.

  1. In many cases the only people present are the two parents, the baby, and the mohel. This requires one of the parents to hold the baby, an honour which is usually performed by a sandek (who is traditionally not one of the baby’s parents).
  2. All participants must wear masks at all times. Because this muffles the sound, everyone must speak loudly and clearly, if possible facing the computer, so the people participating virtually can hear.
  3. It is wonderful to include grandparents or other family members or friends in the ceremony. People can be assigned formal blessings or prayers to recite, can be asked to explain the meaning of the baby’s name, or can offer spontaneous words of blessing.
  4. During the ceremony it’s best for everyone to be on mute if they are not speaking at that moment. However, both before and after the ceremony it is nice to unmute everyone so they can socialize.
  5. If the family has a rabbi that they would like to have participate, he or she can join the ceremony remotely and can co-officiate with the mohel.
  6. At the end of the ceremony, it is traditional to sing “simen tov mazel tov”. It is lovely to unmute everyone and have them sing all together. Because of the sound delay on most virtual platforms, it will sound very noisy and discordant, but there is something wonderful about the chaos and joy that comes through.