Photography During Synagogue Services
A Conservative Perspective
by Rivka C. Berman
To have a videographer and photographer dragging
their cables and lights, setting up shots and filming during the service is
quite disruptive. On Shabbat or holidays, camera and video are not to be used at
all. Many synagogues have rules about not taking still shots during the service.
They open the synagogue for pre-Shabbat photo sessions, where the bar mitzvah
family can gather for posed pictures before the service. Photography rules may
be relaxed during weekday services. Bar mitzvah boys might get in a practice run
of their Torah reading during the Monday or Thursday morning services, and this
might be a good time for candid synagogue shots.
Guests who do not know Shabbat rules may need a gentle reminder to stash their
cameras during prayers. Explain with kindness and patience that taking pictures
during the Shabbat services violates the observance laws adhered by orthodox
and conservataive Jews, and that out of respect for the people and the place, cameras, cell
phones, and other electronics should not be used.
Phrasing the request in terms that are readily understandable and respectful –
everyone knows how nerve wracking it is to be in the bar mitzvah spotlight –
makes it more likely that your request will be honored. Avoid challenging levels
of observance and inadvertently embarrassing a well-meaning friends/relatives.
You may want to include information and instructions about proper etiquette,
appropriate behavior expected in a synagogue and during the services, as well as
a note about proper, modest attire, in your Service Booklet or as part of your
invitation. Again, so long as it is done in good taste and respectfully, your
request will be regarded as such, and your guests will be keen on cooperating
(most people do not like to stand out in an unfavorable light) and you will thus
keep discomfort, embarrassment, or heated discussions to a minimum.
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