The Midrash tells us that when a child is conceived, it is a product of God’s partnership with the parents. We express our covenant with God through procreation. As God created the world, so we add to that creation. Giving birth is a wonderful miracle. Adopting a child is another wonderful miracle. In either case, the raising of a child as a Jew is an awesome responsibility, one that requires a great deal of sensitivity, knowledge, and awareness. A Jewish child is brought into a 4000-year-old heritage. That child is a link in the chain of our people and our faith.
Judaism is not merely a religion; to be a Jew is to be a part of the people. Parents have a wonderful opportunity to raise their children as Jews and enrich their lives by beginning with a meaningful ceremony. Judaism has a particular purpose: to bring perfection to this imperfect world. Being Jewish gives us a unique way of looking at life and the world, reflecting our partnership with God. Raising children in that partnership adds a unique dimension to our lives.
The birth of a child is an occasion for great joy. Although our ceremonies for celebrating the birth of girls and the birth of boys may differ, both are equally joyous.
When a boy is born, a Brit Milah (Covenant of Circumcision) is planned. Brit Milahs are performed by a mohel (ritual circumcisor, often an MD), sometimes with the Rabbi as co-officiant. The Temple office can be of help with lists of local Mohelim.
When a girl enters the world, a naming ceremony Brit Bat (Covenant of the Daughter) should be planned. Please contact the Rabbi for guidance in planning and observing this beautiful tradition of welcoming daughters into the covenant.
In addition, parents may choose to also have a naming ceremony on a Friday evening during Shabbat Worship to share their joy with the Temple community that will be their child’s second Jewish home.
The traditional ceremony of Pidyon Haben (the redemption of the first born son) is generally not observed in Reform Judaism. It is only performed for first born sons and not daughters and therefore is in opposition to our Reform Jewish principle of egalitarianism. However, there are many families which still feel a traditional connection to performing Pidyon Haben and the Rabbi will be most happy to help families who wish to engage in this Jewish tradition.
Prospective parents who are beginning to think about names will find that the Rabbi has resources to help you with your choice. Jews of Ashkenazic background have observed the custom of naming their children after deceased relatives who have played an important role in the life of their family. Sephardic Jews name their children after living relatives, particularly grandparents, as a sign of honor to those still alive. Girls do not have to be named after other females, nor boys after other males. Many people honor multiple relatives by using different Hebrew and English names. The giving of a name expresses the hope that our children will grow with the same kind of qualities and values of the people for whom they were named. It is a way of honoring those whose lives and values gave shape to our own.
PLEASE LET US KNOW – When a child is born or adopted into your family, please contact the Temple Shalom Office at 973-584-5666 so that we can share your joy. The Rabbi will be pleased to visit you (if you’re feeling up to it) and help you plan an appropriate ceremony to welcome this child into your family and into our community.