B'rit Milah (Bris) is the ritual for circumcising a Jewish baby boy and giving him a name on the eighth day of life (including the day of birth). B'rit milah is more than just the surgical procedure of cutting the foreskin from the penis. The ritual includes blessings that affirm the circumcision as the central symbol of the covenant that binds God and the Jewish people to each other. The sign upon the reproductive organ is appropriate for a covenant that connects each generation to generation that follows. If you are expecting a baby boy, contact the Rabbi to arrange for a b'rit milah in your home or at the Temple.
B'rit Bat is the ritual for entering a Jewish baby girl into the covenant and giving her a name. Unlike b'rit milah for a boy, there is no requirement for a baby girl's covenant ceremony to take place on a particular date. Most families observe the brit bat about a month after birth. There is also no set ritual for a brit bat. Some families celebrate their daughters by naming her during a Torah aliyah, ritually wrapping her in a talit, lighting candles, immersing her in water, or washing her hands and feet. After the birth of a baby girl, call the Rabbi to arrange for a brit bat ceremony at the Temple or in your home.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the status of a Jewish boy (bar mitzvah) or girl (bat mitzvah) when he or she comes of age. Since mediaeval times, Jewish boys have celebrated becoming a bar mitzvah at age thirteen by coming up to the Torah in the synagogue for the honor of an aliyah. Traditionally, Jewish girls come of age without ceremony at twelve years old. Today, most Reform congregations celebrate a girl becoming a bat mitzvah at age thirteen with the identical ritual as for a boy. Coming of age in Judaism means accepting the obligation of fulfilling the Torah's commandments. That is why a boy is called a "bar mitzvah," in Aramaic, "a man of mitzvah," and a girl is a "bat mitzvah," Hebrew for "a woman of mitzvah." At Monroe Temple, students begin intensive preparation for the about twelve months ahead of the service at which they are the bar or bat mitzvah. The congregation takes great pride in the way our students lead a large portion of the service.
Confirmation is the ritual created by the Reform Movement in the 19th century for young men and women graduating as a class from their religious school studies. Confirmation is often celebrated on or near Shavuot by students at the conclusion of 10th grade. The early Reformers believed that high school was a more appropriate time than age thirteen for students to make an informed and thoughtful declaration of their fidelity to Jewish values and identity. Today, most Reform congregations celebrate both bar/bat mitzvah and confirmation. At Monroe Temple, the Confirmation class of tenth graders meets weekly with the Rabbi and leads the Confirmation service on the evening of Shavuot. A trip to Washington is one of the highlights of the Confirmation year.
Weddings. Jewish weddings are more than a ceremony announcing a change in status from single to married. The wedding ceremony turns the couple into a symbol of the first love in the Garden of Eden and a symbol of the promised redemption of the world. The wedding couple stand under a chupah, a canopy that symbolized the Jewish home they will create together. Wedding witnesses sign a Ketubah, a marriage contract that describes the pledge of loyalty and love made under the chupah. The traditional ceremony is actually two rituals in one – the couple drink from one cup of wine to declare their betrothal and a second cup to declare their marriage.
Conversion. Jews are simultaneously members of a religion, a culture, and a nation. As such, people born to Jewish parents are Jewish from birth. Yet, Judaism also permits non-Jews to join the Jewish people through the process of conversion. Most conversion candidates spend a year or more learning about Jewish beliefs, living Jewish practices, being part of a Jewish community, and developing a personal Jewish identity. At the end of that process, candidates appear before a beit din, a rabbinical court, to share the story of their spiritual journey. They then immerse themselves in the waters of a mikveh to emerge as Jews. Male candidates also undergo circumcision or its ritual equivalent. Once conversion is completed, the new Jew is considered the equal to a born Jew in every way. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of conversion, contact the Rabbi to set up an initial appointment.