The Bris Ceremony, a traditional Jewish ceremony of Baby Ephraim at just 7 days old
I first met Golda and Sruli several years ago an Orthodox Jewish couple and photographed their beautiful Simcha at The Park Plaza Hotel in London. The documentary style wedding album I produced with their wedding photographs won me the Mario Acerboni award for ‘Wedding Photographer of the Year’, sponsored through the Master Photographer Association ( MPA ).
Over the following years I’ve been welcomed into this Lubavitch’s family home in London’s Golders Green on many occasions, the most notable was being invited over for dinner to celebrate Sabbath one Friday evening with the esteemed journalist Brendan O’Malley who wanted to include my images in an article he was writing for the Independent newspaper.
It was an incredibly special evening , very spiritual with lots of prayers and singing in their native Hebrew tongue which gave an insight into their incredibly strong family and religious beliefs. All followed by a great debate between Brendan, a staunch Irish catholic, and Harris our host a traditional orthodox Jew, about religion, beliefs and family. With such opposing views it led to the most interesting debate that ended way past midnight with both sides agreeing to disagree on the most friendly terms and a warm handshake.
The Bris Ceremony of Baby Ephraim
Several months ago the phone rang and Golda informed she was expecting her second child and that if it was a boy she would dearly love me to photograph the Bris ( Circumcision ) of her first son. Luckily for me their son Ephraim was born and the date was arranged for the ceremony where I was given the instruction to ‘ just do your thing, we trust you to deliver’
It was quite daunting entering the Synagogue at 7.00 am in the morning as the only non Jewish man not knowing what to expect or anything about what was going to happen with the exception of what Efraim was about to go through.
So here I was, armed with two Nikon D4 cameras and my trusty Nikkor 28mm 1.4 and standard 50mm lenses waiting to document a totally new experience, how exciting.
The ceremony began with Golda, the mum, passing her new born to her best friend who in turn passed it to her husband who then passed on Efraim to Sruli the father who delivered little Efraim to Golda’s father and the Rabbi who was to undertake the operation. Each adult carefully put in place to follow the Jewish rules.
It was an incredibly powerful and emotional event to be part of. The importance of the ceremony as this tiny infant begins his journey in life in the tradition of the Jewish faith surrounded by his family was a beautiful experience, and the synagogue with it books and the way everything had been laid out in preparation provided me with some stunning photographs. My role was to capture the emotions and the ceremonial significance rather than detailing the actual circumcision itself.
Looking at the photographs later I love the image with the Rabbi’s hand on the baby which gives a sense of how small he is, and the look of peaceful contentment, contrasted to the screwed up tiny face of the next photograph. Then afterwards mum sitting in Synagogue surrounded by religious books with the most tender of hands comforting little Efraim.
I created the complete slideshow in black and white as this was perfect to create a sense of tradition and brought out the contrast of the white of the baby wrapped in a blanket and the black of the Jewish men’s hats and suits.
The full slide show can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5zwRcj-4V0