Mazal Tov! It’s a boy! The nurses welcomed a boy to Michael and Chipper Perlman this past Chol HaMoed Pesach at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, and within 48 hours the mother and newborn were at their home in Kew Gardens Hills. With a global pandemic stretching thin the resources of hospitals, being home is the safest place to be. “Avoid the ambulance, drive to the hospital yourself,” Michael Perlman said. “The waiting room was empty as they tried to keep as few people there as possible.”
Upon the birth of his son, he was sent home. It was unusual for a mother to be alone after giving birth, but such is the situation when Queens is the epicenter of a global coronavirus pandemic. On the eastern border of Queens, Leah Maksumov was giving birth to her fourth child at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “Only one person was allowed with me up until birth, and then no one can visit you,” she said. Under normal circumstances, the mother would be given her own room at this spacious hospital, but this time she had a roommate and was sent home quickly.
Perlman and Maksumov knew that they were scheduled to deliver during Pesach. In a normal year, there would be plenty of support from the grandparents, aunts, and uncles of the newborn; but when everyone is quarantined at home, there is a balance that eases some of the usual tasks relating to Pesach and the newborn boy. “This year there’s only halachah. We only cleaned what needed to be cleaned. We were not cleaning our chandeliers and windows,” Maksumov said.
At the bris milah of the Perlman newborn, the mohel joked about the catered bagels, an apparent tradition for such occasions. It made for a good laugh for the 100 Zoom meeting participants who observed the mitzvah from their screens at home. “It was humbling,” Perlman said. So many people logged onto Zoom to watch the bris milah of newborn Moshe Chaim that the latecomers were not able to see it. “We also had 200 people viewing it on WebEx, and others heard it on their phones,” he said. That it happened this past Sunday certainly contributed towards the turnout, as people didn’t have jobs or classes to attend.
With the experience of a live-streamed bris milah, the software engineer offered advice for soon-to-be-quarantine-parents. “Tell the invited people not to forward the link, or get yourself a higher subscription to accommodate more viewers. It’s still cheaper than hiring a caterer and booking a hall.”
Perlman also said that the quality of the virtual event is improved when everyone is put on mute and one screen appears rather than a hundred tiny boxes with faces. But for the closest relatives, the glass screen of a smartphone can’t replace the joy of being there. Chipper’s parents and grandmother drove from their home in Monsey to Kew Gardens Hills, where they stood outside the Perlmans’ first-floor back window to see the ceremony. For this glass screen, they didn’t have to think about the life of a battery while celebrating a new Jewish life.
The Maksumovs were also prepared for a high turnout at their son’s virtual bris milah celebration this past Monday. “We had an upward of 500 people watching,” said Leah Maksumov. Her husband, Rabbi Eliyahu Maksumov, is a lecturer for Emet Outreach college programs and a men’s learning program. “We used the Emet Zoom account which has no time limitations. People were watching from their workplaces and homes,” she said.
When there is so much sad news – virtual funerals and shiv’ah calls – a bris milah offers something positive in the Jewish life cycle. The newborn Maskumov joins three older children in this family. “We named our son Yehuda out of praise for Hashem. A week earlier, my grandfather passed away from the virus. His birth helped my grandmother and my parents. There is now a new grandchild, and a new nephew.”
By Sergey Kadinsky