Zoom Life-Cycle Events: The New Normal?

Barbara Silverstein


Not long ago, my sister and I were kibitzing about making a bris on Zoom. At the time her daughter was eight-plus months pregnant. She did in fact have a boy, just this week.

The COVID pandemic has relegated so many facets of Jewish life to Zoom, the platform of choice for virtual holiday observance, synagogue services, bar and bat mitzvahs and other life-cycle events.

I doubt that a bris would generate much interest on Zoom. Who would want to watch? I couldn’t look when my own three sons were circumcised.

On the other hand, a baby-naming would be a lovely celebration to share with family and friends.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my Zoom life expanded exponentially: My middle son and his long-time girlfriend decided to get married this summer and almost all the guests will be attending their wedding via Zoom.

The couple is planning a small outdoor ceremony for the immediate families, but the whole affair will be live-streamed for some 200 friends and relatives in the U.S. and Canada.

My husband and I are thrilled about the marriage, but the Zoom component… well, I guess it’s just a fact of Jewish life these days. 

Given the pandemic’s indefinite presence in our lives, it would be very difficult to plan for a big, fat expensive Jewish wedding. The only thing fat about this wedding will be my waistline.

Like many people, I’ve developed the COVID spare tire around my middle. I have been doing a lot of baking and now I’m scrambling to find an outfit I can fit into for the wedding.

We’ve been given just two weeks to prepare. I was hoping for a late summer date so I could lop off a few pounds, but the rabbi was readily available on the long weekend in August, and naturally his presence matters more than my appearance. Hopefully, there will not be too many Zoom close-ups on me.

Besides the weight gain, I have not had a good hair day in months and I am being extra COVID-cautious because of the wedding, so I won’t be visiting a hairdresser until after the event.

Neither will my husband go to the barber, despite his lop-sided haircut – testament to my lack of skill with the electric hair groomer.

Then there’s the matter of the venue. The wedding will take place in our backyard, a most inelegant space, with a green carpet of weeds that passes for grass and a large paver-stone sports pad with two basketball nets.

We also have a trampoline, a relatively new purchase we made for our grandchildren, along with a fleet of tricycles and Little Tykes cars. In fact, the backyard could actually pass for a day-care centre – hardly the ideal setting for a wedding.

But we’ve been busy fixing the deck and cleaning up the yard. The basketball nets, the vehicles and all the other toys will be moved out of sight for the big day.

My husband and a family friend have also built an amazing rustic-style chupah from large tree branches they found in the ravine behind our house. And once it’s decorated with flowers, the chupah will be quite the Zoom showstopper.

In fact, the chupah may be moving to another home near us. Our daughter-in-law-to-be has a couple of friends who are also having similar, small backyard weddings this summer, and one friend is interested in using our chupah.

Since the duration of the pandemic is so unpredictable, small Jewish weddings on Zoom may become a new trend. These affairs would certainly lighten the financial load for parents, which is a clearly a plus for Zoom Jewish life.

The other day Beth Tzedec held an Aufruf, a special prenuptial component of a synagogue service. Traditionally the Aufruf is only for grooms-to-be, but this Conservative congregation includes brides-to-be as well. Everyone participated on Zoom, of course.

I was able to attend this early morning service in my pyjamas…Zoom Jewish life definitely has its advantages.