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 Photography & Video of Synagogue Services
Orthodox 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 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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