Our policy tries to balance the need for maintaining a sense of decorum and spirituality in the sanctuary with the recognition that families want a permanent family record. We also recognize that film/videotape makes it possible for those who are unable to attend the event to enjoy it at a later date. Bottom line: any filming must be unobtrusive. No flash photography is permitted, and any other photography/videotaping must take place from the back wall of the sanctuary, not from the seats. The caretaker is responsible for enforcing these restrictions.
This policy is also written down in a "welcome and here's appropriate decorum" insert that is given to worshippers when they arrive for services. There are occasional lapses, of course, but generally the policy seems to work pretty well. If anyone is interested in seeing our responsa, e-mail me directly and I'll be glad to send you copies.
Jennifer 650 members
In considering my own comfort with videotaping the life-cycle ceremonies, I thought about how much I would loved to have seen the b'nei mitzvah of my father and grandfathers. If not for our own enjoyment, the power of being able to see our earlier generations taking part in these same ceremonies is great. It should be done unobtrusively and new technology allows us to pull still pictures of reasonable quality off of digital video. Richard 175 members
Our temple allows video cameras that are fixed, i.e.: the photographer must be set up 30 minutes before services in a fixed position at the back of the sanctuary. The photographer may not move the camera, which is required to be on a tripod. Only natural light is allowed.
Families must give the name to the office in advance so that we can go over the rules with him/her and make sure that they have a license and are insured. Sticking to this policy has prevented a repeat of the times in the past when we suddenly discovered that the videographer had decided to move around and use artificial light.
Peg 650 members
In our congregation still photography is not allowed during services (under any circumstances). We, have a remote control video camera mounted on the ceiling. A policy is in place which allows an outside videographer to place a single, unmanned video camera at the back of the sanctuary. It is difficult to enforce the 'unmanned' part of the policy without the presence of the Executive Director. Janice 1350 members
Our synagogue does not allow photography, videography, or tape recording during any service. My parents solved the problem by tape recording my rehearsal the Wednesday night before my bat mitzvah. They did the same for my younger brother. Danielle 800 members
[Congregation] has had the same type of unobtrusive videography for a number of years, but no other photography or videography has been allowed during services. Two months ago, the Worship Committee liberalized the photo and video policy to allow photo and video at non-congregational services such as weddings. Such selective liberalization should make an underutilized facility more marketable. Edward 425 members
In our synagogue, we have a built in video camera that families may request be used for their bar/bat mitzvah service. Flash photography is not allowed during a service, but pictures may be taken before or after the service. However, the families my also hire their own video/photographer, but he/she stands outside the synagogue and tapes or shoots pictures (without flash) through the glass windows which we have on the doors into the sanctuary. The microphone can be placed within the sanctuary.
I have seen guests and unknowing individuals take a flash picture during a service. One of our members/staff usually goes up to this individual and explains to them that this is not allowed.
Ellen 1300 members
Our congregation of 50 member units meets in a 2000 square foot storefront, so "hiding" a video camera isn't an option. Our policy allows a single video camera to be set up, on a tripod, in a set location which is as unobtrusive as possible while still permitting the bimah area to be filmed. The camera is not to be fussed with unnecessarily during the service (sometimes the service runs longer than expected and another tape needs to be put in) and the person operating the camera is also expected to remain in one place. Hand-held video recorders are not allowed at all. Photographs may be taken at will prior to or after the service, with the latter being the stated preference. No photographs - even those requiring no flash - may be taken during the service. Carol 50 members
At our synagogue, we do not permit photography or videography in the sanctuary during Shabbat services. Bimah shots are permitted on Shabbat morning before the service, but all photographers must pack up and leave 45 minutes before the 10:30 start of services. We have for years recorded the services on audiotape with an automatic taping system and a copy of the tape is provided to the bar/bat mitzvah family at no additional charge. This seems to work well and I have not heard much complaining from people who would like photography or videography during the service Tom 1150 members
At our temple, we have a policy that the b'nei mitzvah family can bring any kind of camera they wish into the sanctuary as long as it is mounted on a mount that we provide that is in an unobtrusive place in the sanctuary. The camera must be turned on before the simchah and left alone for the service. This way the family is not constricted by whom they choose to video the ceremony, just where they can do it from. Lance 400 members
In our temple, it was decided that it would be acceptable to videotape on Shabbat as long as the cameraman was not seen. In our reasonably small sanctuary, we happen to have a folding door that cuts off a back portion of the room where the Oneg Shabbat/Kiddush is usually being set up.
My husband (who was/is on the ritual committee) and I devised an opaque curtain which hangs from a rod that we can fit into the track of the folding door. This curtain has a long slit down the center, faced with a Velcro strip so it can accommodate any camera on a tripod no matter what the height. This way, only the camera lens is seen through the curtain. The last time the sanctuary was remodeled, we put an audio jack in the wall of that area so the videographer can take a direct feed from the bimah microphones. We do not allow anyone to take pictures or video in the building before or during the service, but they are welcome to do so after the ceremony.
Our photo/video policy is published in the b'nei mitzvah manual which is given to the family. Also, the rabbi, ritual chair and religious school chair meet with the family about six months before the ceremony and review the policy. We ask that they tell us at least two weeks in advance of the service if it will be videotaped, so we have an opportunity to instruct the videographer in the use of the curtain.
Susan 320 members
I just want to say that we try to use some common sense in the matter. We have our own videography of all b'nei mitzvah with a camera fairly unobtrusive and stationary with an operator. We allow still photos during the service without flash and ask that the photographer not move around to the point of distracting people. He normally sits in the front row and captures all of the aliyot. The real violators of our policy these days are not the professionals. It is the visitors with their little disposable cameras who want to capture everything and use flash. Hillel 450 members
A recent article on AOL Online entitled "The Marketing of Judaism" draws attention to rabbis who are trying to make worship "more exciting to the masses." Specifically mentioned are Rabbi Daniel Cohen at Denver's BMH-BJ synagogue and Rabbi David Silverman, a Conservative rabbi in Los Angeles. While not mentioned in the article, I believe the Conservative congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York is also well known for its "populist" approach to worship and heavily attended services--and there are undoubtedly others.
I'm preparing a presentation on this approach to worship for our Worship Committee and, if they exist, would love to have a few video or audio clips from such services.
There are two audiotapes of the music from services at B'nai Jeshurun in NY and the congregation in California...check out these links at Jewishmusic.com. The names of the albums are "Friday Night Live" by Craig Taubman and "With Every Breath" the B'nai Jeshurun Shabbat service. Rita
The Union has a video that shows some wonderful services, taped in Boston, St. Louis and New Jersey if I remember right. These are part of the Iv'du B'Simchah program. [The video/DVD is called Worship with Joy and is available from the Department of Worship, Music and Religious, www.urj.org/worship/resources/worshipwithjoy.] Larry
I highly recommend the Iv'du B'Simchah/Worship with Joy publication from the Union. It has a companion video and ideas for discussion around the issue of reinvigorating our worship. Rene
At our synagogue, we do not allow photography "on the ground floor" at any time during services. However, we do allow video cameras to be set up and run in the balcony (our sanctuary was built in 1913). This includes b'nei mitzvah ceremonies and other events. I should also note that the camera remains in one place throughout, and that there is no still photography during services. Fred
Nov 2007 Digest 240
My husband is a professional videographer, and he and I developed a method for videotaping during the service:
I made an opaque curtain--about 60" wide--that is on a dowel that is inserted into the folding door track at the back of the room. [The folding door is for expanding the room for extra people or to open into an area for the oneg.] We cut a long slit in the middle of the cloth and put Velcro on each edge of the slit so that only the camera lens would protrude through the hole and be visible to the congregation. The Velcro allows for any height of tripod. The videographer is allowed to stand behind the camera during the service and move the camera as only the lens is visible and non-intrusive. The one draw-back to recording behind the curtain is that the camera microphone is behind the fabric and this may muffle the sound slightly. The cabinet holding the sound equipment for the building is close enough, however, that it is possible to plug directly into the sound system. On occasion, there are so many people attending the service that we need to open up to the extra room. In this case, the camera would be visible and it is the rabbi's call whether or no the camera can be "manned".
These rules are the same for B/Mitzvah or other Shabbat and holiday services. I don't think we actually have a policy for weddings. Since it wouldn't be Shabbat or a holiday, I would expect the rules would be relaxed. (We don't have lot of weddings at the temple.)
Nov 2007 Digest 240
Our RPC is revisiting our policy for Photography and Videotaping During Shabbat Services. The policy while not mentioning Bar/Bat Mitzvahs was designed to:
1) preserve the sanctity of the service
2) respect the practices of a diverse congregation.
The Policy is as follows:
1) Still photography is forbidden during Shabbat services.
2) Videotaping during Shabbat is discouraged but permitted on a fixed tripod in the rear corner of the sanctuary. Minimal adjustment of equipment during the religious service is allowed. The use of additional lighting devices is not permitted.
3) If a recording of the service is desired, discrete audio recording is encouraged as an alternative to videotaping.
Nov 2007 Digest 240
Currently I belong to a congregation with an aging congregation and a facility which does not allow for handicapped accessibility renovations.
We solved the problem by installing closed circuit television which allows us to show the sanctuary services down in the social hall for those who cannot climb the stairs. We also realized that we had an excellent vehicle to solving in part the problem of no pictures, no videos. We had this component installed with the unit and now if anyone wants something taped, bar/bat mitzvah--actual portion of wedding service (losing something of the walk down the aisle), it can be requested for a fee.
I put this out because I think it might solve some of those problems which have occurred over the years in most congregations. However, we always allowed someone to tape a service as long as it was done unobtrusively.