Contemporary Issues in Baby Ceremonies
· Parents make important, life-changing decisions for children all the time, including their religious identity. Doing so is inherent in good parenting.
Despite these debates, circumcision of male children--whether in the context of a brit milah, or at times simply in the hospital in a medical setting--shows few signs of waning as an expression of Jewish identity. Even in the most assimilated families, it remains one of the most enduring traditional practices.
There have historically been a variety of rituals in different Jewish cultures for acknowledging the arrival of a Jewish baby girl, and in the past three decades a variety of ceremonies of welcome, covenant, and naming have been created. But none of them have the raw ritual power or the longevity of brit milah. It remains unclear when, if ever, a single ceremony will (or should) be agreed upon in the Jewish world--one that would provide a universal (and thus truly parallel) ritual--and whether such a ceremony would ever have a power equivalent to the ceremony for boys.
When one parent of a baby is not Jewish, there are special considerations governing the participation of the non-Jewish parent--and his or her relatives--in a ceremony for the child. As the liturgical core of a brit milah is quite brief and there are no mandatory elements for a brit bat, there are many opportunities for innovation, expansion, and involvement by a variety of individuals. Consulting with a rabbi often produces creative options. For example, while a non-Jewish father has no obligation concerning the inauguration of his son into the "covenant of our father Abraham," often he will offer words regarding his commitment to support the Jewish identity of the child.
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