Planning & Executing Your Daughter's Brit Bat

Parents face many choices in preparing a welcoming ceremony and party for their baby girl.

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Having it on at the beginning of a new Jewish month has a nice tie to the Jewish calendar and a particularly female association, since Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month) is traditionally a minor holiday set aside for the enjoyment of women (and observed by many contemporary feminists). Or, like many families, you can wait until the first convenient Shabbat (which has its own covenantal meaning) to hold her welcoming ceremony, or even a Sunday, ensuring that your extended family and community members (including those who are traditionally observant and do not drive on the Sabbath) will be able to join you.

Set Up

Once you've decided when and where to have it, you need to set it up. If it's at synagogue, the ritual will likely be in the sanctuary with a catered reception held in the social hall. If it's at home, you'll probably want to use your living room and then move to the dining room where you can set up a buffet of lox and bagels, deli, foods reflecting your family's culture(s), or whatever food is easy to pull together. It's always nice to have a real birth-day cake for the baby, too. Ask friends or relatives to pitch in with the set up on the big day.

If you're having it at home, clear out the living room to make room for your guests, with a staging area at the front. Most people will stand during the ceremony itself, but remember to arrange plenty of seating, especially for older folks, and for others during the meal

The Ceremony Itself

Next comes consideration of the heart of the brit bat: the ceremony itself, usually including a central ritual. It's time to think about the content. Do you want your ceremony to be focused on the meaning of this girl's arrival in your particular family, or more oriented toward her role as another link in the chain of Jewish history and peoplehood? Do you want her ceremony to feel traditional or modern? How comfortable are you with innovative rituals? Or, do you prefer to stick to prayers and blessings which have long ties to Jewish tradition?

Good resources to help you figure out the answers to those questions include other articles on this website and at www.ritualwell.org, books like Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant and The New Jewish Baby Book, and of course, your rabbi. In addition, if you are in a large and/or active Jewish community, people you know may have files of other people's ceremonies, including a wide selection of prayers, readings, and rituals.

Things

If you plan to utilize Jewish ritual objects as part of the ceremony, be sure assemble them before the big day. If you want to wrap the baby in a tallit (a prayer shawl), for example (to symbolize the embrace of the covenant, her family, and community) you may only need to take it out of a drawer or borrow it from a relative. If you want to have a wedding canopy suspended over your family during part of the ceremony, you'll have to dig yours out of storage, borrow one from a synagogue, or use a tallit.

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Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a staff writer for The Jewish Week.