Incorporate Social Action and Social Justice Into a Baby Ceremony

Do justice, baby!

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Reprinted with permission from SocialAction.com (published by Jewish Family & Life!). All rights reserved.

Planning a bris, simchat bat (a ceremony welcoming a Jewish girl into the covenant), or baby naming? Celebrating an adoption? Consider these ways of making sure your celebration includes the giving of tzedakah and the highlighting of social issues that affect children:

∑        Use the occasion to educate others about your commitments. Let your guests know (in writing, if you have a printed program; otherwise, announce it) that you will donate a percentage of the cash gifts which your child receives to social service/change/justice organizations addressing social and political issues. Consider organizations that not only address immediate needs but work systematically on issues affecting children, such as anti-poverty organizations, those working to keep weapons out of children's hands, and community organizing projects to improve literacy, education and health care.

∑        Take the duplicates or more-outfits-than-one-baby-could-possibly-use and give them to an organization which will pass them on directly to parents in need.

∑        Ask your guests to bring--from their own children or those of people they know--kids' clothes in good condition which no longer fit, and donate them en masse to a local organization.

∑        Consider incorporating this prayer into your ceremony:

We pray for children who put chocolate fingers everywhere, who like to be tickled, who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants, who sneak popsicles before supper, who erase holds in math workbooks, who never can find their shoes....

And we pray for those who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire, who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, who never "counted potatoes," who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead, who never go to the circus, who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money, who cover themselves with Band-Aids and sing off key, who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,† who slurp their soup....

And we pray for those who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them die, who can't find any bread to steal, who don't have any rooms to clean up, who pictures are not on anyone's dresser, whose monsters are real...

We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub, who love visits from the tooth fairy, who don't like to be kissed in front of the school bus, who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone....

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Susan P. Fendrick is a Conservative rabbi and an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program. She is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Madel Center for Studies of Jewish Education at Brandeis University.