Personalized and Unique Baby Naming Ceremonies with Rabbi Alpern

Jacob’s Baby Naming
May 15, 2005
Laura and Roger Thompson, Clifton Park, NY

What We Did

Like our wedding (also officiated by Rabbi Alpern), we wanted our baby naming ceremony to be unique to our personal style and to include our families in the ritual. Rabbi Alpern suggested that we ask different family members to speak at the ceremony and we decided we wanted them to take on the role of teachers to talk about something they felt was important for the baby to learn or know. True to how the rabbi works, he facilitated the ceremony to teach us how to share our beliefs and feelings with each other. He also was a storyteller, explaining the biblical significance of Jacob’s name and presenting us with a Hebrew baby-naming certificate inviting Jacob into the Jewish faith.

Surrounding us in our small house were our parents, siblings, cousins and cousins children, an old friend, dog, and cats. Mommy told the baby that he has a wonderful father that he can always count on. Daddy took the alphabet and for each letter taught the baby a different lesson, some serious, some funny. For instance, for the letter ‘A’ he told the baby ‘A’ is for Appreciate. Appreciate what you have because no matter how little you may think it is, somewhere in the world, someone has less. For the letter ‘S’, he told him that the Steelers are his favorite football team. Mommy’s father sang a song he wrote about being Jacob. Daddy’s brother also wrote a song about how the baby could always count on his uncle to be there for him. Mommy’s sister spoke about the importance of family, as did Mommy’s cousin. Daddy’s mom talked about how proud she was of her son and that her grandson was born on a day that used to be sad for her (her mother had died that day about 15 years ago), but now would be a happy day for her. And finally, Daddy’s dad spoke about how it is important to keep your word.

Why We Did It

Jewish Baby NamingWe had gone to weddings, bris, christenings, and baby naming ceremonies that were cookie cutter rituals: they did not reflect the distinctive personalities and beliefs of the individuals involved. After going through years of fertility treatments to finally have our son, his birth was an incredibly important milestone in our lives. We did not think a cookie cutter ritual would have adequately touched on our unique spiritual beliefs, involved our families, nor would have enabled us to say to the world how much we love our child.

We wanted to create our own ritual because that is how we are going to engage our child in his spiritual upbringing–taking pieces from different beliefs we have and a variety of traditions to creating a unique spiritual household. We will encourage exploring different ideas and hearing what others have to teach, rather than force one systematized religion on him. We will also involve our son some religious rituals that have been a part of our lives including Seders, Easter dinner, Christmas, and perhaps even a bar mitzvah; however, we are excited to plan them, with the help of Rabbi Alpern, in our family way. As a couple we talk a lot about what we believe in and what we want our child to learn. We do not want to leave that responsibility solely to others outside the family. We look at our baby naming ceremony as another step in empowering us to take the lead in teaching our own version of spirituality to Jacob.


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