Celebrating Girls

According to Jewish Women’s Archive’s This Week in Jewish History, on March 14, 1977 the New York Times published an article on the new trend of Jewish naming ceremonies for girls.

While Jewish boys had always been welcomed into the world with a brit milah (a ceremony for circumcision) on the eighth day of life, no parallel ceremony for baby girls had existed until American Jewish feminists began to invent them. As the Times reported, naming ceremonies (often called simchat bat, or rejoicing in a daughter) violated no strictures of traditional Judaism, so women could blend Judaism and feminism in new rituals without creating conflict with rabbinic authorities.

Today Jews from every denomination celebrate the birth of a daughter with beautiful and creative ceremonies honoring their little baby girls. Unfettered by the religious requirements—and emotional difficulties–of a Brit Milah, a simhat bat can be an extremely special experience for everyone involved. 

Borrowing from old traditions and new innovations, couples are creating rituals which reflect their Jewish beliefs—whatever they may be–and celebrating the value and importance of this new female life.

Perhaps most amazingly, a tradition which is only a little over thirty years old has become practically commonplace, taking its place alongside the oldest ritual in Jewish life. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.

For resources on creating your own simhat bat, or to learn more about the ceremony, see: Ritualwell.org, About.com, Jofa.org and MyJewishLearning.com.

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