A baby-naming is a ceremony in which a baby or young child receives his or her Hebrew or Jewish name and is welcomed into the Jewish community as the newest link in our tradition. It is a lovely celebration of new life with plenty of opportunities for family and friends to participate, for example grandparents often do a special reading. Older siblings are encouraged also to have a part!
Must both parents be Jewish?
No, I am happy to officiate a baby-namings for interfaith families committed to raising the child with a Jewish identity. Non-Jewish parents, grandparents and other family members are encouraged to take part in the ceremony.
Can a boy have a naming, or is it only for girls ?
Traditionally, a baby boy has a bris or ritual circumcision on his eight day of life, which includes a naming as part of the ceremony. A mohel, a Jewish professional specially trained for both the medical procedure and the ritual, performs the bris and does the naming. Today, some parents choose to have the circumcision in the hospital and then a naming at a later date. I am happy to do a naming for a baby boy in this circumstance or to attend a bris and do the naming part of the ceremony.
How do I choose a Jewish name?
If you don't have a Jewish name in mind, we can work together to choose a Jewish name for your child. A Biblical name, a modern Hebrew name or a Yiddish name are all possibilities. Ashkenasic Jews traditionally name in memory of a deceased loved one, whereas in Sephardic Jews often name in honor of the living. You can also choose a name based on its meaning, inspiring your child to values that you hold dear. There are several online directories for names. I like this one in particular.
Will you do a naming for an older child?
Yes, while a naming is traditionally done when a child is a baby, it sometimes takes time for a family to decide to do a naming and to raise a child as a Jew. It can be especially meaningful to do a naming when a child is old enough to help choose his or her name.
What about an adopted child? As an adoptive parent myself, working with adoptive families is something very near and dear to my heart. I will be thrilled to officiate at naming of your adoptive child. I do like to have a longer conversation with adoptive parents, though, to discuss the varying options for conversion and acceptance throughout the Jewish community.
Can the ceremony be more cultural than religious?
Yes, I am the rabbi at a Jewish humanist congregation. I am happy to craft a ceremony that is non-theistic and focuses on the themes of tradition, culture and family. I enjoy working with families to make their baby-naming meaningful, unique and reflective of their values.
Where does the naming take place?
Often, families hold the baby-namings at their home, but I have also officiated at baby-namings at reception halls, community centers and restaurants. My congregation, Beth Chai, meets at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda; RRUUC leases its sanctuary and meeting rooms as well.
What is the cost for a naming?
My honorarium for a naming is $350 in the Washington, DC, metro area. My congregation Beth Chai offers one free year of membership for families whose children I name. I hope that the naming ceremony will just be a first step towards an ongoing relationship; I love watching children who I name grow up!