“All your children shall be taught of the Eternal One, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Is. 54:13)

The ceremonies that surround the birth of a child serve many purposes. They are the first in a series of lifetime rituals that can mark significant moments in their life and begin a journey of linking the child to their Jewish past and commit them to a Jewish future. Furthermore they are a chance for the parents to thank God for their birth and reinforce the values that define their Judaism and Jewish life. Many ceremonies also provide a chance for the larger community to celebrate with the family.

The circumcision of a baby boy symbolises God’s covenant with the Jewish people. A Brit Milah normally takes place on the eighth day after the child’s birth, even if it falls on Shabbat or a holiday. The ceremony is performed by a Mohel (circumciser), who has been specially trained in the traditional Jewish way of doing it. Postponements are permitted, however, if the health of the child warrants. The original motivation for Brit Milah is not known but it is especially associated with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14) and with Elijah (I Kings 19:14). For many Liberal Jews the observation of this practice is confirmation of a particularly ancient Jewish practice, deeply embedded in Jewish emotion. It is also the time when the child has his Hebrew name conferred on him.

The following is information taken from the web site of Dr Howard Cohen, a member of the Reform & Liberal Association of Mohalim. All the members of this association are medically trained practitioners:

The Ceremony
The Mohel (the ritual circumciser) will gather everyone together and explain the significance of the Brit. The baby will then be carried in to the room by his Kvaterin (or Godmother) and handed to his Kvater (or Godfather), whilst the opening prayers are said. The baby is then passed to the Sandek, who will hold him on his lap whilst the circumcision is performed.
Usually the Sandek has a pillow on his lap, covered by a towel and will sit opposite to the Mohel on two dining room chairs (without arms). A small table next to the chairs for the Mohel’s instruments and the kiddush wine would be useful.
The circumcision usually takes two or three minutes only, including the time to put a small dressing on.
After the circumcision, further prayers are said, including a blessing over wine and the naming of the baby.

Who Can Do What?
The choice of who does what, is that of the baby’s parents. Traditionally, the Sandek is a Jewish male, often a grandfather or uncle of the baby (not the father).

An All-Male Affair?
Traditionally, only men attend the ceremony. Progressive communities would encourage all to be present regardless of gender, but this would be an individual’s choice. Similarly, mums and dads need to choose if they stay in the room or leave. Most who stay feel that the reality was less distressing than their imagination and were glad that they had stayed.

Pros and Cons of Neo-Natal Circumcision
Circumcision is a straightforward operation undertaken using a well proven and established method. Complication rates are low when compared to other surgical procedures and when they do occur can be sorted out promptly with minimal distress to the child or his parents
In accordance with General Medical Council Guidelines doctors undertaking male circumcisions are now required to gain written consent from the baby’s parents for the procedure. The form confirms that the parents have been informed of the pros and cons of the procedure and appropriate anaesthetic and analgesic methods. Also, that the parents have been made aware of the potential complications of bleeding, infection and a cosmetically unacceptable outcome, including an estimate of their likelihood and consequences.
Circumcision is a small operation and what your son needs most after the operation from you are lots of cuddles and tender loving care. Keep him well fed, well winded and all should be well.

More information is available on Dr Cohen’s website: www.mohel-circumcision.co.uk
For details of registered members of the Association of Liberal and Reform Mohalim, please contact the Montagu Centre.

Click here to see our Brit Milah FAQ
Throughout history, women have played their part in transmitting Jewish heritage from generation to generation. But originally within Judaism there was no specific home celebration to welcome female infants into the covenant. Traditionally the fathers were given an Aliyah (the honour of reciting the blessing before and after a section of the weekly Torah portion was read) at the synagogue the first Shabbat after a girl was born. The child received her Hebrew name at the same time.
Over time Liberal congregations have created their own ceremonies for girls. Ceremonies that celebrate the birth of a daughter and her entry into the Covenant have been called many names, most popular is a ‘Brit-Bat’. They are a wonderful opportunity to thank God for the child and to celebrate her birth and recognise Liberal Judaism’s egalitarian approach to Jewish tradition. They can take place in the synagogue or at home.
This ceremony is usually performed as part of a Shabbat Service. It enables parents to thank God for the safe delivery of their child together with relatives and friends and allows members of Communities to share this unrepeatable moment and welcome the child into the community.
Many Liberal Jewish parents follow the ancient custom of giving a child a ‘Hebrew’ name. The Rabbis of Liberal Judaism are always glad to help parents find appropriate Hebrew equivalents for names, or to find out the meaning and English equivalents of Yiddish or Hebrew names traditional in their family.
Orthodox Jews still practice Pidyon ha-Ben (Redemption of the son), an ancient ritual that relates to passages in Torah (Ex. 13:2 and Num 3:11-13). Liberal Jews consider the ceremony no longer meaningful but many parents do mark the birth of a child with Tzedakah (charity).
Click here to see our Baby Blessing FAQ