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Guide to Birth Ceremonies for

Pages 1-3. To read the rest of the document, download the Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families (PDF). Also available in Word  format.

"This is really a wonderful document. You all should be commended for producing it."

-Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff, The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah, Overland Park, Kansas

Table of Contents


Introduction  2
Introduction to The Bris (Brit Milah)
Circumcision, Pros and Cons 5
Introduction to Birth Ceremonies for Girls  6
Baby Naming
Unique Considerations for Interfaith Parents
Sample Sequences of Birth Ceremony 10
Sample Introductions to Ceremony 12
Sample Readings to Welcome New Baby  14
Traditional Birth Ceremony Blessings 16
Sample Readings for Ceremonies for Boys and Girls 18 
Readings for Discussing the Covenant 30
Adaptations of the Five Senses Ceremony 31
Naming 33 
Shehecheyanu 35 
Blessings over Bread and Wine 36
Additional Ideas for Ceremony 37 
Sample Simchat Bat (Inspired by Dr. Seuss) 39
Sample Non-Cutting Naming Ceremony #1 42
Sample Non-Cutting Naming Ceremony #2 45
Recommended Books 47 


















We at compiled the Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families as a way to help interfaith families navigate the process of planning a birth ceremony. It includes detailed information about what takes place at a brit milah, simchat bat or naming ceremony, as well as information on ways a child's interfaith family can participate in the ceremony.

The booklet opens with background information on birth ceremonies in the Jewish tradition, including information on special concerns for interfaith families. It continues with sample sequences for birth ceremonies and concludes with a wide array of sample readings, prayers and rituals to include in your child's birth ceremony.

We could not have created this resource without the help of our devoted readers and contributors, who responded to our call in August 2006 for suggestions for birth ceremonies.

We would like to thank the following contributors (authors whose work originally appeared in another source include the name of the original publication):

Rabbi Lev Baesh
Cantor Ronald Broden
Anita Diamant
Rabbi Brian Field
Rick Fowler
Morissa Fregeau
Dr. Samuel A. Kunin
Mary Litman
Kathy Lowy
Keren McGinity
Rina Mello
Michelle Missner
Barbara Niles
Brenda Platt
Mark Reiss, M.D.
George Robinson (JTA)
Judith Seid
Julia Slotnick Sturm
Rabbi Kenneth S. Weiss
Lesley Williams 

We would also like to thank the following contributors from our partner

Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Louis Jacobs (The Jewish Religion: A Companion, Oxford University Press)
Daniel Margolis (Second Jewish Catalog, Jewish Publication Society)
Patty Margolis (same as previous)
Michael Strassfield (same as previous)
Sharon Strassfield (same as previous)

We owe a particular debt to Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff, who volunteered his expertise to review this document to ensure that it is Jewishly "sound."

Introduction to The Bris (Brit Milah)

According to traditional Jewish practice, on the eighth day after a boy is born, he is circumcised, that is, the foreskin is removed from the tip of his penis, and several blessings are recited. This ritual, called brit milah (commonly known as a bris), was first mentioned in the Torah (the Hebrew Bible), when God says, "Every male among you shall be circumcised… it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you" (Genesis 17:11). The brit milah may be postponed, however, if the child is not healthy enough to undergo the procedure.

According to traditional Judaism, there is a difference between circumcision and a brit milah. A brit milah must be performed by an observant Jew who follows a prescribed procedure. A brit milah is typically performed by a mohel, who is a Jew trained in religious law and surgical techniques. For many years there were only Orthodox mohels, but now there are a growing number of progressive mohels who are receptive to the needs of interfaith families. The Reform movement maintains a database of mohels at Often, parents will ask their rabbi, if they have one, to co-officiate at the brit milah.

The brit milah may occur in any location that will allow it, and usually occurs in the parents' home or a synagogue, although it is certainly permissible to perform the ceremony in the hospital.

The basic order of the ceremony is as follows:
1. An honored woman (the kvatterin) brings the infant forward and hands him to an honored man (the kvatter).
2. The kvatter places the infant on the knees of the already-seated sandek (another honored person, usually the grandfather).
3. The sandek holds the infant while the mohel performs the circumcision.
4. As the circumcision is performed, the mohel recites a blessing declaring that his act fulfills a holy commandment. (See Mohel's Blessing, page 16.)
5. The parents recite a blessing acknowledging that their son has entered into a covenant, or contract, between God and the Jewish people. (See Parents' Blessing, page 16)
6. The boy's Hebrew name is formally bestowed over a cup of wine (See Kiddush (Blessing over wine), page 36).

Many parents and mohels add additional readings, songs and rituals to the basic ceremony.

Mohels are typically very accommodating to a family's needs and will use anesthetic if desired and will help the parents find ways to add additional elements to ceremony. It is customary for mohels to charge a fee of several hundred dollars for their services, and if you need to bring in a mohel from out-of-town, you are expected to pay for their transportation and lodging. The mohel will provide precise...

To read the rest of the document, download the Guide to Birth Ceremonies for Interfaith Families (PDF). Also available in Word  format.

Hebrew for "Who has given us life," part of a blessing thanking God for bringing us to a special or new moment. Hebrew for "daughter's celebration," a modern term for a naming ceremony for baby girls. 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." Yiddish for "godmother," often the individual who carries a baby in for his bris (circumcision). Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hebrew for "sanctification," a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) 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 ?godfather,? the word is specific to the role of holding the baby during a brit milah ceremony. Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." 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. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them. 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."

InterfaithFamily is the premier resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our new InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative providing coordinated comprehensive offerings in local communities.

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