In the life of every individual and of every family, there are special occasions that call for celebration as well as occasions that call forth grief and mourning. Every people from time immemorial and every religious faith has seen fit to mark these occasions by special ceremonies and special observances.
Hayim Halevy Donin, “To Be a Jew”
Judaism has developed rites and ceremonies as well as rules and procedures to mark life’s critical junctures. These rituals can add beauty and meaning to a family’s simcha (happy occasion), healing to a family’s sorrow. They do so by binding us to the past while expressing our dreams for the future. They do so by connecting our lives to the life of our people and ultimately to God.
Brit Milah (also known as a bris in Yiddish)
Of all of the commandments, Brit Milah, the covenant of Circumcision, is one of the most universally observed. It is a physical confirmation of the agreement made between God and Abraham four thousand years ago and is performed on the eighth day of a boy’s life. It is a ceremony that welcomes a baby boy into the Jewish people through the ritual of circumcision, and is a symbol of the parents’ commitment to raise their son as a Jew.
Our Rabbi can recommend a mohel (person who has specialized medical and ritual training and performs the ritual circumcision) and is also available to officiate with a mohel in the Brit Milah ceremony. The synagogue is available for your ceremony, or you may choose to have the ceremony at your home. Our Rabbi can help guide you through the process.
Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the First Born Son)
According to traditional Judaism every first-born child who is male belongs to God, and his parents should "redeem" him by making a symbolic payment. It comes from the ancient custom of dedicating a firstborn son to the service of God in the Temple and is grounded in the concept that the first and best things belong to God. During the ritual, which took place thirty-one days after the child was born, the father would pay a priest (Kohen) five silver shekels so that the child would be released from the obligation to serve in the temple. Today parents who observe this custom will use five silver dollars to symbolically pay a descendant of the Kohanim (plural of Kohen). The payment is symbolic because the Temple is no longer standing and hence, there are no priests to run it. There are specific requirements for a child to be considered a “first born”, and many exceptions to the rule, and our Rabbi can guide you if you wish to consider doing this ancient ceremony.
Simchat Bat –Baby Naming for a Girl
The Naming and Blessing ceremony is a baby girl’s first welcome into Jewish life and the Jewish community. A baby naming usually takes place within the congregational family at Shabbat morning services when the parents are called to the Torah for an aliyah, and a blessing is recited announcing the baby’s Hebrew name and welcoming her into the Jewish community. Members may also choose to have a private naming ceremony at the synagogue or at home. Our Rabbi can help you craft a meaningful service to help welcome your new daughter into the Jewish people.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah literally means “son/daughter of the commandment.” When a child becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the age of 13, he/she takes on the responsibilities and privileges of becoming an adult in the Jewish community, which requires a great deal of preparation and commitment. Teens of this age are also considered to be responsible for their moral behavior. It is a simcha (happy occasion) for the immediate family, the synagogue family, and the entire Jewish community, and the ceremony is held during Shabbat morning services.
Our Rabbi and office staff will offer you any assistance you might need to make your child’s becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah a meaningful experience.
Marriage is highly revered and strongly encouraged in Judaism. Our Rabbi is available to officiate at weddings and will gladly meet with you to help you prepare for your special day. Ceremonies may be held in the main Sanctuary or the Chapel. We would also be pleased to hold an auf ruf (Yiddish for “calling up”) ceremony, a communal acknowledgement of the upcoming wedding, in which the bride and groom are called to the Torah on the Shabbat prior to their wedding, to receive a special blessing.
The Rabbi and our community will be there for you and your family in your hour of need, and will guide and support you through funeral preparations and the mourning process. Our Chevre Kaddisha Society (burial society) is available to prepare the deceased according to traditional Jewish practice, offering a special sense of spiritual connectedness and consolation. During the entire shiva period, Kesher Israel will provide a minyan leader at your home. Most families hold an unveiling ceremony a year after the death. There is no restriction about the timing, other than the unveiling cannot be held during certain periods such as Passover or Chol Ha'Moed. At the ceremony, a cloth or shroud covering that has been placed on the headstone is removed, customarily by close family members. Services include reading of several psalms, Mourners Kaddish and the prayer "El Malei Rachamim." The service may include a brief eulogy for the deceased. Our Rabbi will be honored to assist you.