The birth of a child is the first simha in the Jewish life cycle.
It is an occasion to be celebrated and shared with the rabbi and your congregation, as well as your own family and friends. Please call the rabbi’s office at the synagogue as soon as you become new parents so that we may help you plan the brit and naming.
Traditional Jewish practice suggests that a newborn child be given the name of a worthy person, usually that of a beloved member of the family. Ashkenazi Jews (those of German and Eastern European background) feel strongly that a child should be named after someone who is deceased. Jews of Sephardic (Spanish, Portuguese, North African) origin have no objection to naming a child after a living person. Members of our congregation may follow whichever practice they prefer.
Every Jewish child should be given a Hebrew as well as an English name. It is a mitzvah to give a Jewish child a Hebrew name. The name should be announced and blessed in the synagogue. Whenever possible, the Hebrew and English names should correspond to one another. Our rabbi will be helpful to you in making decisions about the Hebrew and English names which your child will bear for a lifetime.
In our synagogue, a blessing and public naming of the child may occur at the first Friday evening service after the birth when both parents are able to be present. Please plan this with our rabbi. Many families want to share this happy occasion with the entire congregation. Accordingly, parents or grandparents may sponsor the oneg Shabbat on that evening if they so desire. The executive director will be happy to advise you in connection with these plans.
Brit – Covenant
The Hebrew term brit means covenant. We welcome baby boys and girls into the covenant between God and the Jewish people. The ceremony is traditionally performed on the eighth day (see Genesis 17: 9-14.) Traditionally this is the time when the baby receives a Hebrew name.
The Hebrew term brit milah means the covenant of circumcision. The brit milah is performed on the eighth day after the birth of a son and is a sign sealed in the very flesh of the male Jew to symbolize his participation in the covenant. Postponement of the circumcision beyond the eighth day is permitted only if the health of the child would otherwise be endangered. While the father is commanded to perform the circumcision, he traditionally appoints a mohel, a Jew who is specially trained to perform the circumcision within the proper religious context. The brit milah may take place in the synagogue, at home or in the hospital. This joyous occasion affords the parents an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends.
The Hebrew term brit hayyim means the covenant of life. Liberal Jews have developed ceremonies to welcome baby girls into the covenant on the eighth day. Sometimes also known as brit bat, (the covenant of the daughter), the brit hayyim ceremony incorporates many of the religious aspects of the brit milah service.
When a child whose birth parents are not Jewish is adopted, please consult with the rabbi as to appropriate rituals.