Baby Ceremonies

Print this page Print this page

· The historical basis of practices such as the use of water in ceremonies for girls and the planting of trees at the birth of a child.


Adoption represents a special case in the larger context of welcoming new Jewish babies, with two additional sets of issues. First, a child who was not Jewish at birth needs to be converted to Judaism. His brit milah or her brit bat may incorporate part of what is necessary to make this baby Jewish (e.g., circumcision is in most communities required to convert a Jewish boy), but the additional requirement of immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath) for converts of any age is usually practiced as well. Second, while there is no Jewish ritual for adoption--indeed, adoption has no special history in Jewish law or custom--many Jewish adoptive parents wish to find ways to mark Jewishly this particular way of expanding their family. Special readings or rituals may be added to the baby's ceremony, or families may wish to find other ways to mark this event in the context of community, e.g., with an aliyah to the Torah or a party for their congregation.

Baby under blanket


Where a brit milah or brit bat takes place, the child's Hebrew name is formally announced and given (according to traditional custom, for the first time) during that ceremony. Sometimes, a girl will simply be "named" during the Torah service of morning services (often on Shabbat), either in lieu of a brit bat or before it is scheduled.

While popular wisdom suggests that "Jews name children for dead relatives," the reality is much more expansive. The custom of naming a baby after a deceased family member is the practice only among Ashkenazic Jews; Sephardic Jews often honor living relatives by naming a child after them. In addition, there are many other traditions and inspirations governing the naming of Jewish children, including using biblical names, names popular in modern Israel, and names associated with a holiday or Torah reading near the child's birth. Many parents give their child a "secular name" (which appears on the birth certificate and may be used in non-Jewish contexts) and a "Hebrew name" (which for Ashkenazic Jews may also be Yiddish names. They may also be called Jewish baby names). Others prefer to give their child a Hebrew name by which they may comfortably be known in all aspects of their life.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.