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Making the Transition to Parenting Easier: A Review of The New Jewish Baby Book

Review of The New Jewish Baby Book by Anita Diamant. 2d Edition. Jewish Lights Publishing; 2005.

A dear friend delivered twins yesterday . . . and I couldn't decide what to give her. But then Anita Diamant's freshly updated The New Jewish Baby Book fell into my lap and I knew just what to do! My young friend is in an interfaith marriage, as am I. But hers is more recent and the opportunity to celebrate the birth of her children is ahead for her. With The New Jewish Baby Book, she'll have the chance to consider how she wants to meld time-honored rituals and creative approaches into the welcoming ceremonies for her new babies.

The New Jewish Baby Book covers just about everything you might want to know about celebrating your baby's arrival, from the first day through the end of the first year. In a friendly, conversational tone, Diamant introduces readers to the purpose of the book by recalling her own days as an expectant mother. While hers was not an interfaith marriage, she notes that neither she nor her husband spent any time considering the Jewish significance of their child's impending arrival. It was only after the baby arrived, that they, as exhausted new parents, began to consider how to create a welcome ritual.

"I wrote The New Jewish Baby Book in response to those feelings of awe and bewilderment to help parents feel empowered to use Jewish tradition as a means of expressing their own great joy." The second edition, she tells us, "reflects the changes in society and in the Jewish community"--including interfaith families.

The New Jewish Baby Book is organized chronologically--thus, Parts 1 and 2 cover pregnancy, baby showers and choosing names. Then, in Parts 3 and 4, the book covers the core Jewish concepts of brit (covenant), circumcision, welcoming ceremonies and suggestions for personalizing celebrations. In Part 5, which undoubtedly constitutes the key change from the first edition, Diamant talks about today's wide variety of Jewish families--ranging from families that are multiracial, single parent, gay/lesbian, and adoptive, to non-Jews committed to raising Jewish children. She talks frankly about some of the issues and emotions that may arise in less traditional Jewish families. Part 6 completes the cycle by looking at how Judaism celebrates a baby's first year of life. Two helpful appendices are especially useful for interfaith families, as they offer good advice on how to explain to non-Jews the Brit Milah, covenant of circumcision, and Brit Bat, covenant for a daughter. A helpful Glossary provides the meaning of Jewish words.

Diamant avoids a tone of right or wrong, instead aiming for a reassuring and joyful message. Specific suggestions for personalizing celebrations and helpful ideas for explaining your choices to non-religious and/or non-Jewish members of the family are sprinkled throughout the book. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of blessings garnered from a wide variety of sources, including a contemporary prayer written by a female rabbi during her own pregnancy. The section on Jewish names, while not unique to The New Jewish Baby Book, is enhanced by the inclusion of the Hebrew version of each name.

I can't wait to see the twins, and I'll arrive with the gift of the meaning of their names, Noah and Levi, along with The New Jewish Baby Book, to help the happy parents plan the next step of their adventure!

Hebrew for "covenant of circumcision," a ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old. It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." Hebrew for "daughter's covenant," a ceremony or ritual for welcoming baby girls into the Jewish community. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."
Cheryl F. Coon

Cheryl F. Coon is the author of Books to Grow With: A Guide to the Best Children's Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband and children in Portland, Ore.

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