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Births: We say “Mazal Tov” as we warmly welcome a newborn into our community. CRJ offers ritual options for infants at a special synagogue ceremony in the home or at a service in the sanctuary. Please contact the Temple in order for the clergy to be informed about the birth and to make plans for the ceremony.
Naming: “From biblical times onward, Jews have always devoted great care to the selection of names. In our Jewish tradition, names can be an expression of individuality, a commemoration of a great life event, a tribute to the dead, or an honor to the living.”
“A baby naming dramatizes the Jewish insistence that each Jew much enter into an individual relationship with God, Torah, and the people of Israel.” (from The Jewish Home: A guide for Jewish Living by Daniel B. Sym)e
A baby-naming ceremony at CRJ is usually held at a Shabbat service with both parents, family and friends and usually takes places thirty days after the birth. At that time, the child will receive his or her Hebrew name and a special blessing. This ceremony is more common for girls, as an infant boy will typically receive his Hebrew name at a B’rit Milah.
If you need help choosing a name, please contact Rabbi Engel.
About B’rit Mila: Although circumcision has been practiced in different cultures for over three thousand years, in Judaism this act has taken on special significance and represents bringing a male child into the divine covenant between God and the Jewish people.
Descriptions of circumcisions can be found in the Bible. In Genesis 17:9-13, God instructs Abraham to circumcise male children on the eighth day throughout the generations.
According to Jewish tradition, it is a parent’s obligation to circumcise a son and offer a threefold blessing for the child: a life enriched by Torah, the wedding canopy (chuppah), and good deeds. Today, a mohel or mohelet is routinely designated by parents to fulfill this custom.”
(from: Berit Milah Program for Reform Judaism)
Bar/Bat Mitzvah - Bar and bat mitzvah mean, literally, “son and daughter of the commandment. “At the age of maturity one is obligated to observe the Mitzvot...” Pirke Avot 5:25-26
This ceremony is a very important point in a young boy or young girl’s Jewish life around the time of the thirteenth birthday. They are about to go through a process of transition, where they will become a member of the Jewish community. They are no longer only a student, but now will also be a teacher; no longer a child, but a young adult in the eyes of the members of Congregation of Reform Judaism. This means that we will ask them to take on even greater responsibility in our congregation, like reading from the Torah, leading Services, and doing all of the other Mitzvot that a Jew is required to do.
One of the most important Mitzvot is Tzedakah, making the world a better place by helping others. Therefore, we will ask the boys and girls to choose a year-long Mitzvah Project to do. They will choose it themselves and will carry it out on their own. It is their responsibility to prove to themselves and to their congregation that they can make a difference.
During the year prior to your Bat or Bar Mitzvah the parents and student will meet with Rabbi Engel to talk about this big change in your life, to study their Torah portion, prepare for the service, write a speech, discuss the Mitzvah project, and just get to know each other a little better.
They will enter the Chevruta class (group track) one year prior to the date of their Bar and Bat Mitzvah. This is an interactive class taught by Rabbi Engel where the students will choose which Mitzvot they think are most important and then learn about and do the actual Mitzvot at CRJ.
The student will also be helped by a tutor to prepare for the service at weekly tutoring sessions. They will learn to chant the Torah portion, Haftorah and prayers through guidance of the tutor.
We at CRJ are very proud of our Bar or Bat Mitzvah program and look forward to welcoming these students into the congregation as our newest members.
Wedding - The sacred wedding ceremony is considered to be a beautiful lifecycle event at CRJ! If you are a congregant and planning an upcoming wedding, please contact the Rabbi’s Assistant, Annie Hernandez, firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with Rabbi Engel.
The Art of Marriage - Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage, the little things are the big things .. It is remembering to say, “I love you,” at least once each day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is discovering what marriage can be, as expressed in the words Mark Twain used in a tribute to his wife: “Wherever she was, there was Eden.”
The following are some Jewish wedding traditions/customs which may vary from couple to couple. Use this list as a reference and discuss options with Rabbi Engel.
The Chuppah Canopy -The Chuppah is made with a talit (prayer shawl) and four poles. The wedding canopy is symbolic of the new home that couples will build together.
The Procession - After the wedding party has taken their places, it is traditional for the bride to circle the groom. By making a complete circle around the groom, the bride indicates that, through marriage, she is complete and fulfilled. The circle also symbolizes that the groom is the center of her life. We have chosen to circle each other. In this way, we show that, through marriage, we are both filled and complete, and that we are the center of each others’ lives.
Eruseen – Blessing of Engagement - Years ago, in Talmudic times, the Eruseen took place a year before the actual wedding ceremony, and was a separate celebration of the engagement. Today, the Eruseen has been incorporated into the wedding ceremony. The first cup of wine, therefore, represents the blessing of engagement.
Shevah B’rachot – Seven Blessings - The first three blessings relate to the theme of creation, in general, and to Adam and Eve in particular, because their creation and union marks the beginning of a husband and wife relationship. The theme of creation is also significant, because marriage is seen as the continuing process of creation.
The fourth blessing prays for the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. The prayer for Jerusalem is particularly appropriate for a wedding. The prophet Isaiah used the rejoicing of the groom toward the bride as a metaphor to describe the way God will rejoice over Jerusalem when He brings the redemption.
The next two blessings are the heart of the Shevah B’rachot, for they are prayers on behalf of the couple being united in marriage. The first is a prayer to God for happiness by providing us with all our material needs and with all that is good throughout our lives, just as He provided for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is a prayer for the success of the couple, individually and together. The next blessing prays that we find happiness and joy in and with one another. This is a prayer not for material success, but for the fulfillment of our mutual love. In this way, the marriage ceremony combines individual and communal hopes.
The seventh blessing is the prayer over the wine. The rabbis decided that wine, as a symbol of joy and celebration, merited a blessing of its own. This blessing is recited on every Shabbat (Sabbath), holiday, and life cycle event.
Ketubah - The Ketubah is the marriage contract between the bride and groom. It contains the marriage vows and obligations. The Ketubah also outlines the roles and expectations of each partner. Rather than use a standard Ketubah form or have an artist design our Ketubah, we have worked together to design and create our own Ketubah. We took the text from many different marriage contracts, both modern and traditional, and included those parts which we felt best described our future roles and obligations.
The Breaking of the Glass - It is customary for the groom to break a glass by stepping on it at the end of the ceremony. The breaking of the glass reminds us of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. Another interpretation suggests that just as the breaking of the glass is irrevocable and permanent, the marriage should last an eternity. When the groom breaks the glass, it is traditional that everyone present shouts, “MAZAL TOV!” (GOOD LUCK).
Death and Mourning
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven - a time to be born, and a time to die.”- Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
If your loved one is suffering a serious illness, you should contact the clergy so they are able to make hospital and home visits to help you and your beloved find strength in prayer, Jewish teaching, and the compassion of a loving friend.
When a loved one dies, Judaism offers prayers and rituals to bring you comfort and strength. Your instinct may be to retreat into your grief, but the wisdom of our tradition teaches that this is not a time to be alone. For this reason, we have the custom of the Shiva where the family and friends gather to say prayers for your
loved one. Mourners often choose to attend worship services regularly to say Kaddish and to be with the community.
From the Rabbi: - The death of a loved one is a time fraught with great stress and anxiety. The intense pain and feeling of loneliness often leads to confusion, with one not knowing where to turn for direction or for answers to important questions.
Judaism has developed rituals and customs to redirect and ease one back to normal life. The psalmist writes: weeping may linger in the evening.
but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:6
In order to make some knowledgeable decisions about Jewish practices dealing with death and mourning, Rabbi Engel has written a book available to congregants:
“A Guide to Jewish Mourning Customs and The Practices of The Cemetery of Congregation of Reform Judaism. Please contact Annie Hernandez, Rabbi’s Assistant, to obtain a copy. email@example.com
Yahrzeit - The anniversary of death, or yahrzeit, is observed each year. CRJ will observe the passing on either the Hebrew calendar or the English calendar.
Yizkor Services - The loved one is also remembered four times a year during Yizkor services (from the word "to remember") on the holidays of Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Shemini Atzeret.