Photos at a Bris?


Q – My son’s bris is in a couple of days and lots of family and friends will be attending. I’m OK with people taking pictures but I really don’t want photos of my son all over the Internet. What can I do?

A – Come right out and say it. Stand up there, and at the same time you ask people to turn off their cell phones, tell them to put away their cameras too, at least until the Mohel has put away the knife. I’ve always felt bris photos were a little sketchy, anyway, especially those before / after close-ups. Give the kid a break!

I confess, I was one of those parents who documented his kids’ every milestone with wall to wall coverage that rivaled the O.J. Simpson trial, including both video and photography, but this was before Facebook made it so easy to post and tag photos for all the world to see.

It’s the tags that are most invasive, but the posting alone, when it occurs without permission, is also an invasion of privacy. Once those tagged photos are online, they can cause irreparable damage, ruining reputations and relationships.

It’s good to check out Facebook’s privacy guidelines to protect yourself before you begin uploading your own photos, but buyer beware, Facebook’s system is exceedingly confusing. Facebook encourages us to share more information than we may want – read this striking expose on the deterioration of privacy on social networks. Simply put, it is now virtually impossible to control the privacy of your information. Those ancient cultural claims (including among some Jews) that photos steal a person’s soul might not have been that far off.

OK – that having been said, there’s a positive side to the sharing of photos. I know it’s been a great thing for my extended family, scattered all over the globe as we are. So it might be worth the risk to share your photos with a limited circle of friends and relatives, knowing that the system is not foolproof. For now, you might as well enjoy the limited control you still have. By the time your son is a teenager, odds are that our control over privacy will have become as limited as, well, the control we’ve always had over teenagers.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Read his blog here, and follow him on Twitter.