Frequently Asked Questions on Soc.Culture.Jewish
Part 12: Jewish Childrearing Related Questions
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[Last Post: Sun Feb 8 11:07:17 US/Pacific 2004]
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer
questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family
of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the
various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to
accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In
all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your
local rabbi is a good place to start.
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The deceased sages described within are of blessed memory, (assume a
Z"L or ZT"L after their names) and the sages alive today should live
to see long and good days (assume SHLITA). May Hashem grant complete
recovery to the ill. Individual honorifics are omitted.
The FAQ was produced by a committee and is a cooperative work. The
contributors never standardized on transliteration scheme from Hebrew,
Aramaic, Yiddish, or Ladino to English. As a result, the same original
word might appear with a variety of spellings. This is complicated by
the fact that there are regional variations in the pronunciation of
Hebrew. In some places, the common spelling variations are mentioned;
in others--not. We hope that this is not too confusing.
In general, throughout this FAQ, North American (US/Canada) terms are
used to refer to the movements of Judaism. Outside of North American,
Reform is Progressive or Liberal Judaism; Conservative is Masorti or
Neolog, and Orthodoxy is often just "Judaism". Even with this, there
are differences in practice, position, and ritual between US/Canada
Reform and other progressive/liberal movements (such as UK
Progressive/ Liberal), and between US/Canada Conservative and the
conservative/Masorti movement elsewhere. Where appropriate, these
differences will be highlighted.
The goal of the FAQ is to present a balanced view of Judaism; where a
response is applicable to a particular movement only, this will be
noted. Unless otherwise noted or implied by the text, all responses
reflect the traditional viewpoint.
This list should be used in conjunction with the Soc.Culture.Jewish
reading lists. Similar questions can be found in the books
referenced in those lists.
There are also numerous other Jewish FAQs available on the Internet
that are not part of the SCJ FAQ/RL suite. An index to these may be
found at www.scjfaq.org/otherfaqs.html
This FAQ is a volunteer effort. If you wish to support the maintenance
of the FAQ, please see Section 20, Question 99 for more
Special Introduction to the Jewish Childrearing Portion of the FAQ
This FAQ is intended to serve two newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish and
soc.culture.jewish.parenting. The latter group will recieve only the
Jewish Childrearing Portion of the FAQ. Readers with non-childrearing
questions about Judaism should consult the first part of the
soc.culture.jewish FAQ, available at http://www.scjfaq.org/faq/.
Answers to general childrearing questions may be found in the
misc.kids.info FAQs, posted on a regular basis to misc.kids.info.
Reproduction of this posting for commercial use is subject to
restriction. See Part 1 for more details.
This portion of the FAQ contains answers to the following questions:
Section 21. Jewish Childrearing Related Questions
* Introduction to the Jewish Childrearing FAQ
1. Entering the Covenant
1. What is circumcision?
2. Why are Jewish boys circumcised?
3. Who performs the circumcision?
4. When is the circumcision done?
5. But doesn't it hurt?
6. But shouldn't the child make its own decision?
7. But circumcision is only required for boys. What about
8. What are our options for welcoming our new baby girl?
9. Can we hold a welcoming ceremony on the 8th day for a
10. What is a pidyon haben?
11. When is a pidyon haben required?
12. What about babies who are stillborn or die shortly after
birth with respect to pidyon haben?
13. What about an adopted child?
14. Does Judaism have a tradition of Godparents?
15. Is Circumcision required for a boy to be Jewish?
1. What are the Ashkenazi customs regarding the naming of
2. But my grandmother was named (insert old-fashioned out of
use name here? No one uses that name today? How do I name
after that relative?
3. Is it appropriate to name a child after a relative of the
4. Is it appropriate for multiple children (i.e. cousins) to
be named after the same relative?
5. My spouse has a living relative with the same name as my
deceased relative. Can we name our children after my
6. What are the Sephardi customs regarding the naming of
7. What about babies who are stillborn or die shortly after
8. Are there any distinctly non-Jewish names?
1. Can I let my kid swim on Shabbat?
2. Can I let my kid play in the sandbox on Shabbat?
3. Can children play sports such as Soccer on Shabbat?
4. What is appropriate dress for swimming?
5. Can my kid play with Playdough during Pesach?
1. Where can I find kosher baby food?
2. Where can I find kosher for passover baby food?
1. What are good activities for children for the major
1. How do I determine the right type of religious program:
day school vs. afterschool?
2. How are teachers in Chasidic schools trained?
7. B'nai Mitzvah
1. What is a bar/bat mitzvah?
2. What's a good gift for a b'nai mitzvah?
3. What is appropriate dress to wear to the b'nai mitzvah
4. What are the characteristics of a good b'nai mitzvah
5. How do I select a good b'nai mitzvah tutor?
6. I need to speak at my child's bar/bat mitzvah? What do I
8. Other childhood lifecycle rituals
1. I've heard of a ceremony called "Consecration". What is
2. I've heard of a ceremony called "Confirmation". What is
3. What is Upsherin? I know it relates to the cutting of the
hair of boys at age 3, but tell me more.
4. I've been invited to a Bat Barakah. What is it?
9. Coping with other religions
1. My child says all of his friends have Christmas Trees,
and he wants one too. What do I say?
2. My child's non-Jewish grandparents have asked her to help
trim the tree. What do I do?
3. My child has been invited to an Easter Egg roll? What do
4. My child has been invited to the Easter Egg roll on the
White House lawn? What do I do?
10. Growing Older
1. My child wants to start dating? How do I ensure proper
2. My child wants a tattoo. What forms of body modification
are allowed? Tattoos? Earrings?
3. When do I need to start worrying about issues of modesty?
11. Resource References
1. I need some information on Jewish Genetic Diseases. Where
do I start?
2. Are there any recommended online resources on Jewish
Childrearing or specifically for Jewish children?
* Special Credits for the Jewish Childrearing FAQ
Subject: Question 21.1.1: Entering the Covenant: What is circumcision?
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis.
Subject: Question 21.1.2: Entering the Covenant: Why are Jewish boys
The rite of circumcision is one of the most ancient practices of
Judaism. The commandment to circumcise male children was given to
Abraham in the Torah (Genesis 17:7-14) [English translation from 1917
And G-d said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My
covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their
generations. This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me
and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be
circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your
foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every
male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or
bought with money of any foreigner, that is not of thy seed. He
that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money,
must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh
for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male who is not
circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that should shall be cut
off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.
It is repeated in the Torah in Leviticus 12:3, and has remained
throughout history as one of the most important commandments. It has
already led to martyrdom in Maccabean times (I Macc. 1:48,60).
Circumcision is (in general) a common denominator among movements:
Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox--all circumcise
their male children and require male converts to undergo some form of
Furthermore, faith is the only reason that Jews should circumcise
their male children. In Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Pereplexed),
chapter 49, the Rambam says: "No one, however, should circumcise
himself or his son for any other reason than pure faith; for
circumcision is not like an incision on the leg or a burn on the arm,
but a very difficult operation."
Current medical fashions play no role in circumcision, as it is a
religous rite to Jews. Thus, it is pointless to attempt to argue for
or against circumcision from a basis of medical need.
As said in the Reform Responsa addressing circumcision: "Circumcision
remains for us an essential sign of the covenant. We have affirmed it
since the days of Abraham, our Father, and continue to affirm it".
Subject: Question 21.1.3: Entering the Covenant: Who performs the
Although some modern Reform Jews use medical doctors to perform the
circumcision, this is not the traditional method. Traditionally, the
male infants are circumcised in the home or the shul on the eighth day
after birth, surrounded by family and friends, and held by the sandek
(an adult being honored by the parents, often a grandfather). The
infant is given a little wine, and the ritual is performed by a
specially trained Mohel, whose sole function is to perform
Traditionally, the father is supposed to perform the Brit. As most
fathers do not have the appropriate training, a Mohel performs the
Brit. It is customary, that if possible, a Mohel will perform his
first Brit on his own son - under the supervision of an experienced
accredited Mohel (his teacher).
Note that Mohelim are not unique to the more traditional Orthodox
movement. The Reform and Conservative movements also train and
accredit Mohelim; often, the Mohel is a practicing M.D. (For example,
Dr. Samuel Kunin (a Reform Mohel in Los Angeles CA) and Dr. Robert
Lewis (a Conservative Mohel in Columbus OH) are practicing
Subject: Question 21.1.4: Entering the Covenant: When is the circumcision
The circumcision is done the eighth day after birth, unless ill health
or serious medical problems prevent it. Even Shabbat does not stop a
Bris. If such a child is not circumcised, he is nevertheless
considered a Jew [San. 44a; Hoffmann, Melamed Leho-il, Yoreh De-a,
#79]. However, if there are no medical contraindications (e.g.
hemophilia), it is incumbent for the individual to arrange for their
circumcision when medically safe to do so.
There are quite a few customs associated with circumcisions:
* In the Ashkenazi community, on the Shabbat night (Friday night)
prior to the Brit, the community comes to the home of the newborn
to welcome him with singing and thanksgiving to Hashem on his
birth, and a small meal is served including chickpeas (ar'bes).
These are served as a sign of mourning: the child mourns that the
angel caused him to forget everything he learned in his mother's
womb (just one explanation of many for this custom of eating
* In Sephardi communities, the night before the Brit is called the
night of "Brit Yitzchak" and the community and family gather to
learn the "Zohar" together, to sing special songs and have a
dinner. In many places people from the community and family get
together and study all night not only on the night before the
brit, but also during the preceding week.
* The greeting said to the newborn when brought to his bris is
"baruch haba"--blessed be the one who is arriving. It's a very old
greeting, dating back to the workhands' reply to Boaz when he
greets them in Ruth. The origin is probably a blessing God
promises the Jewish people if they observe the Torah (Deut 28:6).
"Blessed you shall be when you come, blessed you shall be when you
go." It is part of a general covenant about getting the land of
Israel, listing blessings and curses that will visit the land and
the Jewish people depending upon their observance.
* One does not issue invitations to a brit. This is because it is a
mitzvah to attend a brit, and one tries as hard as possible to not
refuse the opportunity to do a mitzvah. If you are invited and
refuse, you run into this problem. If however, you are only
informed of it, you have not been formally invited and circumvent
the problem. Furthermore, since Eliyahu (the Prophet) will attend
(the chair in which the holder of the baby sits is called
Eliyahu's Chair), it is impossible to refuse an invitation.
Subject: Question 21.1.5: Entering the Covenant: But doesn't it
The requirement is that it be done at the eighth day. The Rambam (just
beyond the section previously quoted) says that earlier the baby is
too tender and later the father might not be able to bring himself to
do it. Some doctors have said that after, the baby develops too much
and would actually be a more serious matter.
With adults, the question is different. After the eighth day the
nervous system becomes more developed (especially after puberty). For
adults, a local anesthetic is used (often a mixture of lidocain and
prilocaine). It is spread on the area, some time is allowed to pass,
and the procedure is performed with no pain.
Subject: Question 21.1.6: Entering the Covenant: But shouldn't the child make
its own decision [regarding circumcision]?
Parents routinely make many decisions for their children; bringing a
child up to practice a religion is only one of many such.
Subject: Question 21.1.7: Entering the Covenant: But circumcision is only
required for boys. What about girls?
Judaism does not practice female circumcision. However, there are many
traditions that have arise related to the birth of a girl:
* Commonly, girls are welcomed into the convanent through a naming
ceremony, held in the synagogue.
* Among Bucharan Jews when the father of the newborn girl is called
to the Torah for the naming the congregation sing the song "Dror
Ykra L'ven im Bat" in which each line ends with the word "bat".
After the reading of the portion and the naming, candies are
showered on the father and the congregation calls "Mazal Tov".
* Many Sephardim have a party where they repeat the naming. A Cohen
is invited and he holds the baby and blesses her with the "Birkat
Cohanim". Fruit which Israel was blessed for them are served, and
the Rabbi of the community holds the baby girl on his knees and
says the words from the Song of Songs "Yonati Bechagvei Haselah"
(2:14): The ceremony is called "Zeved Ha'bat". The word Zeved
means gift and comes from Berayshit 30:20 where Leah said at the
birth of Zevulun "Hashem gave me a good present" and then she gave
birth to Dina.
The more liberal movements have developed other ceremonies. There is
an excellent book on the subject by Anita Diamant. Another good
reference is Lifecycles Volume 1 : Jewish Women on Life Passages and
Personal Milestones, which includes material from Reform,
Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist contributors. It was
edited by Debra Orenstein, and is available from Jewish Lights
Publications in Vermont.
The Simchat Bat/ Brit Bat / Brit HaHayim is increasingly appearing in
Modern Orthodoxy has well. A Simchat Bat ceremony is now in the
Rabbinical Council of America's [Orthodox] Rabbi's manual. This
ceremony is based on traditional Jewish forms.
The Rabbinical Assembly [Conservative] has included the Simchat Bat
rite in its new rabbi's manual. As the ceremony is still evolving, the
RA's manual presents, within a common religious ceremony, three
options that parents may choose to perform: (A) Lighting seven candles
(symbolizing the seven days of creation) and holding the baby towards
them; (B) Wrapping the baby in the four corners of a tallit; (C)
Lifting the baby and touching her hands to a Torah scroll. A detailed
article on this topic can be found at:
Subject: Question 21.1.8: Entering the Covenant: What are our options for
welcoming our new baby girl?
A number of options are available. Traditionally, a baby girl is named
the first time the father attends synagogue after the birth. In some
communities, the mother recites a blessing of gratitude for her health
and well-being after childbirth; and the father is called to the
Torah. In other communities, there are more elaborate ceremonies. In
the Sephardi communities of Turkey and the Balkans, infants are
clothed in elaborate dress and jewelry. The ceremony has no fixed
date, but is usually held sometime between seven and thirty days after
birth, and is conducted by a rabbi, usually at home but sometimes in
the synagogue. Several central Asian Jewish communities celebrate the
first time an infant girl is laid in her cradle. In Bokhara, for
example, small children are called to participate in snatching away
the sweet treats that have been placed around the baby in the cradle.
In the Bene Israel community in India, the naming ceremony usually
takes place on the twelfth day after a girl is born. Held in the home,
the ritual is intended primarily for the women and children of the
family. A special new garment is sewn for the child, and her cradle,
decorated with flowers and colored paper, is placed in the middle of
the house. Cooked chickpeas, peeled pieces of coconut, and cookies are
arranged along the inner edges of the cradle. In the Yishuv HaYashan
(the community of Ashkenazic Jews who settled in Jerusalem beginning
in 1811), the celebration took place on the eighth day, and the baby
girl's ears were pierced. [Thanks to http://www.mispacha.org/ for
the information about ceremonies in other communities.]
In liberal congregations, a number of new ceremonies have been
developed to symbolically parallel the brit ceremony; these new
ceremonies serve to welcome the infant into the convenant of Judaism.
There are a number of approaches to these berit ceremonies. Some are
based on the ceremonial washing of the infant's feet, based on Sarah
washing the feet of Abraham. Others involve the use of seven
blessings, paralleling the seven blessings of the wedding ceremony. A
good source of ideas for such ceremonies is Anita Diamant's The New
Jewish Baby Book: Names, Ceremonies & Customs, A Guide For Today's
Families; another is Zeved HaBat by Aryeh Cohen (ISBN 965-264-049-2).
These ceremonies usually take place in the home, anywhere between 7
days and 30 days after the birth of the daughter. In Israel, they are
often held in a hall, as the whole family and most of the community is
invited. There is often a public naming at the synagogue approximately
30 days after the birth of the infant.
In terms of other resources for such ceremonies, the following have
been suggested. If you are aware of others to add to this list, please
let the FAQ maintainer know.
* The Women's League for Conservative Judaism puts out a whole
package of information on the Simchat Bat ceremony. Contact them
at: 48 E. 74th St., NY, NY 10021; 800/628-5083, 212/628-1600 or
fax 212/772-3507. There is a charge for the package.
* The ceremony the FAQ maintainer used for his daughter, Erin, is
available through the autoretriever in PostScript format. To
receive a uuencoded zip of the ceremony, send the command "send
infofiles liturgy/britbat.uue" to email@example.com. You
can do this through the web by visiting
* Zeved HaBat, by Aryeh Cohen. ISBN 965-264-049-2.
Subject: Question 21.1.9: Entering the Covenant: Can we hold a welcoming
ceremony on the 8th day for a girl?
Traditionally, when a baby girl is born, the father notifies the
synagogue officials of her arrival and of his plans to have her named
at a service. Though the baby is not brought to the service, the child
is named in the synagogue during the reading of the Torah on the
Shabbat, Monday, or Thursday immediately following her birth.
Sometimes the date is postponed so that the mother may be present.
Typically, the father is also honored with an aliyah.
The Conservative movement has no rule on whether or not the 8th day is
a necessary day to hold the ceremony on for girls. The Conservative
movement does encourage parents to hold a Simchat Bat for baby girls,
and to view it as having the same importance as a Brit Milah for boys
(see Moreh Derekh: The Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi's Manual"). More info
is available from: "Jewish baby law"
However, just because there is nothing "official" doesn't mean you
can't use an established welcoming ceremony or create your own at any
time. Baby girls are just as welcome in Jewish tradition as boys are,
and there are marvellous ways, in every denomination, of showing them
they are equally loved.
Note: The Reform movement has a number of ceremonies written and
available through the Reform rabbinate; UAHC publishes Bat Brit
Subject: Question 21.1.10: Entering the Covenant: What is a pidyon haben?
Pidyon ha-ben is a ceremony that recognizes the first born male child
(to be specific, the first born male child that was born naturally).
The ceremony arose due to the special status of the firstborn in
biblical society. The firstborn received a double portion of his
father's estate; the last plague in Egypt killed the firstborn--except
for the firstborn of Israel. Traditionally, the firstborn of Israel
were consecrated to service to G-d. The bible commands "sanctify unto
Me all the first-born (Exodus 13:1). This has been interpreted to mean
that a father was either to dedicate his first-born son to the service
of the Holy Temple, or to redeem him by paying five schkels
(approximately five dollars) to a kohen. Noet that this ceremony does
not apply when either the father or the mother is of a priestly or
The Pidyon haben ceremony takes place on the thirty-first day after
birth. For the occasion, a kohen is specially invited to the house.
The baby is placed on a cushion, and in the presence of assembled
friends and family, placed on a table. Five silver dollars are laid
beside him. In the presence of those assembled, an ancient dialoge
takes place betwen the father and the kohen. Sometimes there are
additional English readings, and some ceremonies include participation
by the mother. The kohen usually gives the "redemption money" to
What do you do if five silver dollars are not available? In the days
that the Torah was given, the only significance to a coin was that
someone attested that it contained a known weight of whatever metal in
question. Thus, any other object of acceptable weight and purity would
be acceptable (for example, solid silver utensils, such as teaspoons).
A typical estimate for the weight of a shekel is 11.4 grams, the
Chazon Ish (a large estimate) has 16.92 grams. You would need to
consult an appropriate authority with respect to purity.
Pidyon haben is observed in traditional communities, and in the
Conservative community. It tends not to be observed in Reform
Why must the first-born be redeemed? The first-born has a significant
history in early Judaism:
* After Cain was born, we're told that Eve gave birth to "Abel his
brother". Why does Eve define her second child as the first one's
brother and not a person in his own right? And look how well that
* We then get to Isaac and Ishma'el, where history sides with the
younger. Similarly, we see this with Jacob and Esau.
* First-born issues then cause all that strife between Joseph and
his brothers (except Benjamin).
* Next comes Moses and Aaron (and to some extent Miriam), where
Aaron bows out to give his younger brother the prominent role.
After we're introduced to Moses and Aaron, we have the plague of
the death of the firstborn. The Jewish firstborn were saved
because of the Pascal offering. (Those families where it was
Why is the bechorah (first-born-ness) idea so central that the Torah
continually returns to it throughout the first book and a half?
Perhaps because Israel is repeatedly called "my child, my firstborn,
Israel". Without first drawing a clear definition of the role of the
first-born, we don't have a clear idea of our national mission.
In Galachah there are actually two kinds of firstborn. It would seem
that one is a physical primacy, the other a religious one. The
father's firstborn is the primary inheritor. He gets twofold the
inheritance of the other brothers. Tribal affiliation, which for all
the tribes but Levi is tied to the ancestral land, is also
patrilineal. The mother's firstborn is the one who require's pidyon,
even if the father had children from another marriage first.
Also, membership in the Jewish people is traditionally matrlineal (and
is still considered so by the Orthodox and Conservative movements, and
by most Reform movements outside the US). The mother's firstborn is
naturally the one to reinforce the religious instruction. It was the
Egyptian firstborns' failing in this role that made them fitting
victims of the plague. Not to mention the punishment being in kind for
the killing of G-d's "firstborn", the Jewish people.
Had there been no history, they would have been the nation's priests
and (for want of a better word) levites. Just as Israel is called a
"kingdom of priests" -- which explains the "firstborn" metaphor.
However, after the golden calf, the majority of the nation was no
longer trusted to maintain the religion on their own. Only the tribe
of Levi, who did not participate, were fitting to carry that torch.
So, they were not given an ancestral territory, and instead given
tithes that they could live of off. This frees them up to pursue roles
of religious leadership without worrying about a livelihood. Also,
without a homeland, they end up more distributed among the flock. In
the meantime the firstborn, the would-be priests, still maintain a
vestage of that sanctity. In order to free them from that duty, we
have the pidyon haben. This redeems their sanctity by giving something
to their replacements, the kohanim.
Subject: Question 21.1.11: Entering the Covenant: When is a pidyon haben
A pidyon haben is required on the 31st (although check with your
Rabbi, for one source says 30th) day after the birth of a first born
male child. This child must be an "opener of the womb". That is, a
male child born naturally (not a caesarian) and not preceded in any
way by another child.
Note that if the father is a Levite or a kohen, (making the child a
Levi or a kohen) the pidyon haben does not apply (logically since the
father could wind up paying himself). If the mother is the daughter of
a Levi or a kohen the child is exempt.
Subject: Question 21.1.12: Entering the Covenant: What about babies who are
stillborn or die shortly after birth with respect to pidyon haben?
A child who dies before the month is up could not have become subject
to pidyon haben. However, if it was a natural birth, it is an "opener
of the womb", and any subsequent child would not be subject to pidyon
The laws of pidyon haben involve only the state of development of the
miscarried fetus, not the location in which it was carried. In the
mishnah, the debate is between Rabbi Meir who says that the fetus must
have eyes in order to be considered and the majority of sages who say
it must be human-looking. (The Talmud's discussion is in Bechoros
[logically enough, the tractate named "Firstborns"] 46a.) In practice,
there is a large grey area, and it can end up being a rabbi's
Subject: Question 21.1.13: Entering the Covenant: What about an adopted
An adopted child is treated according to the status of the natural
parents (assuming that they are Jewish). If the adopted child has been
converted, pidyon haben does not apply. Baby girls should be named in
the synagogue; baby boys should be circumcised at the appropriate
time. If the adopted boy is more than 8 days old and has not been
circumcised, they should undergo the surgery as soon as it is legally
and medically permissable. If the child has been circumcized without
the appropriate ritual, your rabbi should be consulted as to the
appropriate manner of initiating the child into the community of
Subject: Question 21.1.14: Entering the Covenant: Does Judaism have a
tradition of Godparents?
Judaism does have a role that is sometimes referred to as
"Godparents", but this is not "Godparent" in the Christian sense. In
America, Jews began picking up words used by non-jews, but gave them
Jewish meanings. In Judaism, a person nowadays referred to as a
"Godparent" actually has a different job. This person is really called
the Sandek (Hebrew term), Ba'al berit milah (Hebrew term) or the
Kvater (Yiddish term). Among some Sephardi communities it is customary
for the Sandek (who holds the child during the brit) to buy the
clothing, blankets and diapers for the baby. In all communities, to
act as sandak is considered a great honor and as a meritorious
religious act which, according to the kabbalists, has atoning
qualities. Where a grandfather of the child is still alive, it is
customary to bestow the honor of sandak upon him. The woman who brings
the child to the circumcision and hands it over to the sandak is
The Sandek is obligated to see to the child's upbringing if the
parents fail or are unable to do so -- just like a godparent. Note
that the sandek really should be Jewish. However, this practice is not
a universal minhag (custom), and since it is not universal, it doesn't
have the status of law. Thus, technically speaking, one could make a
decision that a gentile may act as Sandek. In practice, most rabbis
and mohelim (people who do the circumcision) won't allow this, but
The notion of Godparent in the western sense is not a Jewish notion;
it is derived from the Christian godparent, whose charge is to ensure
the child's spritual upbringing in the church. Judaism rejects this
In the Jewish tradition, there are two tiers of responsibility: the
immediate family, and the local Jewish community. Jewish law, from the
Talmud itself, absolutely mandates that the parents of a child are
obligated to teach the child three things:
1. An education that can lead to a trade, so that the child can have
2. A comprehensive Jewish education.
3. How to swim.
These three obligations are an absolute minimum. The second tier of
responsibility falls on the Jewish community that the parents live in,
which is obligated to work together to set up a Beit Midrash (house of
study, including a Hebrew school), hire teachers (preferably,
including at least one rabbi, as well as other learned lay-people), to
build a mikveh (to allow families to observe the laws of family
purity, allow people to convert to Judaism, and a number of thing
things as well), and finally, to build a synagogue.
Subject: Question 21.1.15: Entering the Covenant: Is Circumcision required
for a boy to be Jewish?
It is not a bris that makes a child Jewish, it is the circumstances of
birth. In traditional Judaism, if the child is born of a Jewish
mother, the child is nominally Jewish. For religious reasons, both
Conservative and Orthodox Jews view it as a terrible mistake to avoid
giving your Jewish child a brit milah (hebrew) (Note that a medical
circumcision does not count in halakha (Jewish law) as a brit).
Nonetheless, a Jew is a Jew, and he can join a synagogue and
participate just as fully as any other Jew.
Note that adults can choose to have a circumcision later in life
(although medical involvement is necessary, along with religious
involvement). Should a medical circumcision take place, your son could
always get the full religious benefit of a second circumcision: the
procedure is called hatafat dam brit, "the drawing of a tiny drop of
blood in the name of the covenant". This action and ceremony can be
done by a mohel (Hebrew)/moyel (Yiddish) nearly painlessly (surprise!)
either when your child is still an infant, a child or even as an
Lastly, note that in Reform Judaism, under the Patrilineal Descent
decision, either parent being Jewish gives the presumption of the
child being Jewish. However, Reform Judaism requires that this
presumption be confirmed by the child being raised with appropriate
Jewish lifecycle and yearcycle events (i.e., observing holidays, home
pratices, religious education)... and one of the specifically
recommended events is a circumcision!
Subject: Question 21.2.1: Naming: What are the Ashkenazi customs regarding
the naming of children?
In Judaism, one's name has always been considered to be extremely
important. As names were bestowed, the meaning of the name was the
prime consideration of its selection. The name often imbodied
characteristics that the parents wished the infant to have, or
experiences surrounding the birth, or the look of the infant.
Many naming traditions in Judaism arose out of custom, and this custom
often arose out of superstition. This was often based on a close
association between the name and the person. From this arose a common
belief that the changing of a name would prevent the evil spirit from
harming the person. If the name were changed, the evil spirit would
not recognize the person. This belief is embodied in the Talmud (Rosh
Hashanah 16b): "Four things can abrogate the decreee of man and they
are: charity, supplication, change of name, and change of action."
These customs carried over in Eastern Europe to the naming of
children. In Poland, when several people have died in a family, a
new-born child is given a name that is never uttered, so as not to
give the evil spirit any opportunity. Often, a nickname was given to
the child, such as "Alte" (Old One), Chaim (Life), or Zaida
(Grandfather). This was a way of deceiving the angel of death. A
similar practice was done for the extremely ill, changing the
individual's name to deceive the angel of death.
In Ashkenazi Judaism, the custom arose to name a child after a
deceased relative. Infants were not named after the living, because
the angel of death might mistake the infant for the adult, and take
the wrong one. Some felt that to name after a living relative might be
to rob the adult of their soul, as the name was tied very closely to
Subject: Question 21.2.2: Naming: But my grandmother was named (insert old-
fashioned out of use name here)? No one uses that name today? How do
I name after that relative?
There are a number of different approachs. Some take the first letter
of the relatives name, and choose a different name beginning with the
same letter. Unfortunately, this loses the original meaning of the
name. Others choose an arbitrary English name, but retain the
relative's Hebrew name. Kolach recommends choosing an English name
with the name meaning as the Hebrew name. Consider the English name of
Mildred. Mildred is either from the Latin, meaning "Sweet Singer", or
from the Teutonic, meaning "Strength". It has Hebrew equivalents of
Amtzaw, Gavreelaw, N'eemaw, Neevaw, Reenaw, Sheeraw, and T'heelaw.
Thus, less-dated English equivalents might be Shira (Song), Valerie
(Strong), Gabrielle (G-d is my Strength), Renana (Joy or Song), or
Carol (Melody or Song).
One source asked this question of Rav Avigdor Neventzhal, the Rav of
the Old City of Jerusalem. Rav Neventzhal said that while there is no
requirement to name after somone, if there is a desire to attach the
deceased relatives characteristics to the newborn and/or to tie one
soul to the other (according to Kabalah) then the name must not be
altered. According to this Rav, taking the first letter of name A and
creating name B, thus, does not constitute naming after someone, and
combining names from different people also does not result in "naming
after" someone. So, the answer for those that consider Rav Neventzhal
authoritative is that you can't change the name.
As usual: two Jews, multiple opinions.
Subject: Question 21.2.3: Naming: Is it appropriate to name a child after a
relative of the opposite sex?
Yes. However, you may run into some difficulty, depending on the name.
Only a few Hebrew names are easily adaptable, such as Simhah (Joy),
which can be used for either a boy or a girl. More often than not, you
will have to look for a name with an allied meaning, or even merely a
Subject: Question 21.2.4: Naming: Is it appropriate for multiple children
(i.e. cousins) to be named after the same relative?
Yes. Note that many Sephardi families consider it a sign of blessing
there are many grandchildren named after them (during their lifetime).
Subject: Question 21.2.5: Naming: My spouse has a living relative with the
same name as my deceased relative. Can we name our children after my
Note that this response is significant only to those that hold with
Ashkenazi traditions; Sephardi traditions name after living relatives.
Also note that we are dealing with custom here; there is no formal law
that would prohibit it. Ashkenazic custom discourages naming a baby
after a living relative. This is a based on a folk-myth that this
might confuse the Angel of Death, who might then accidentally take the
baby instead of the older relative. Sefardic custom has no such
tradition, and thus encourages parents to name their children after
living relatives. Generally, Ashkenazi Jews should follow the
traditional Ashkenazi custom, and Sefardic Jews should follow the
Sefardic custom, but the end decision is left to the parents.
For the most part, most people would not use the same name. Often, the
living relative with that name would be offended that one might be
trying to use the name before they were done with it! However, as with
anything, there are solutions. Consider using a less recognizable
variant of the name, or a name with the same first letter, instead.
Another approach would be to use a name that is different, but has the
same meaning. There also appears to be less of a taboo against using
English names of living relatives (i.e., use the English name, but use
a different Hebrew name). However, the best approach is to check with
the living relative to see if they would be offended.
Subject: Question 21.2.6: Naming: What are the Sephardi customs regarding the
naming of children?
Sephardic Jews have the opposite custom from the Ashkenazi. In
Sephardi tradition, one customarily names an infant after a living
relative, usually its living grandparents.
Subject: Question 21.2.7: Naming: What about babies who are stillborn or die
shortly after birth?
* Orthodoxy: Traditional Jewish law is that if a child dies before
reaching the age of 30 days, no formal burial is required. Such a
child is considered a nefel, and for such a child, no burial and
no mourning rites are required (Ket. 20b; Shab. 135b; Evel Rabati
I; etc.) The Shulhan Arukah addresses whether a eulogy is
permitted; it says for the children of the poor, it may be done
from the age of five and onward; and for the children of the rich,
from six and onward (M.K. 24b; Shulhan Arukh 344.4). This shows
that, traditionally, little was made of infant deaths. Further, a
nefel was treated as an amputated limb, and buried in the general
section of the cemetary (Ket. 20b) to avoid ritual uncleanliness
for the priests (M. Edut 6.3; Yad Hil. Tumat Hamet 2.3; Pahad
Yitzhaq, Ever). Note that, strictly speaking, it was not necessary
to bury amputated limbs (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah #209).
It's very easy to think of the traditional position as
"heartless." When you've lost a baby and need to grieve, it's
natural that you'd want to do it in the way you're familiar with.
Orthodox families in this situation are usually forced to look for
alternative ways of coming to terms with their grief, since in
most cases, the traditional funeral and mourning periods are not
observed. This doesn't mean that nothing has happened, or that as
far as Judaism is concerned, they have not experienced a loss.
They still need consolation and any compassionate Orthodox rabbi
and community will recognize this and do their utmost to help the
family through their time of pain.
* Conservative: Four papers have been validated by the Conservative
movement's Commitee on Jewish law and Standards on this issue.
Conservative Judaism affirms that where Jewish law allows for more
than one possible position, a congregation should follow the
ruling of its rabbi, who as mara d'atra [halakhic authority] has
the sole responsibility and authority in his/her community for
making a p'sak [ruling/decision]. The significant teshuvot are
1. Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg, 1987. (a) When a full-grown,
full-term baby dies within 30 days after birth, there is
aniut, keriah, burial, shivah and shiloshim; no eulogy is
delivered and the burial is peformed by the immediate family
members. If the parents wish, they may recite the kaddish for
30 days. (b) If the baby was born prematurely, the above
customs should be practiced only if it died more than 30 days
after its birth. (c) If the baby was born prematurely and
died before 30 days are over, the baby should be treated as a
fetus. There is burial, but no other rituals are practiced.
In all 3 cases, should parents ask the rabbi if they may
recite the kaddish, their request should not be denied. This
teshuva can obtained from the CJLS by one's local
Conservative rabbi. (II)
2. Rabbi Debra Reed Blank - teshuva on miscarriage. She agrees
with the first teshuva for the case of a full-term baby dying
within 30 days after birth. For cases when the fetus was not
born alive, full mourning rites are not called for or
appropriate, for that would compromise the position of
classical Judaism on the legitimacy of abortion in some
circumstances. However, in event of a miscarriage the
community should tend to both members of the couple under the
rubric of bikur holim (visiting the sick), for they are
suffering from the loss of the child that they were expecting
to have. The couple may recite the kaddish if they choose.
This teshuva can obtained from the CJLS by one's local
3. Rabbi Stephanie Dickstein, 1999. In an extension and revision
of her 1992 paper, she also agrees with the first teshuva for
the case of a full-term baby dying within 30 days after
birth. For cases when the fetus was not born alive, she holds
that burial in a Jewish cemetery is required for stillbirths,
and she recommends a funeral service. The stillborn may be
named and circumcision can, but need not, be done. The grave
should be marked later. After the first day, the parents may
observe the practices associated with shiva b'tzniut (private
observances which do not involve the community). This teshuva
is online at
Additionally, Conservative/Liberal Jewish responses to these
situations can be found in Nina Beth Cardin's "Tears of Sorrow,
Seeds of Hope: A Jewish Spiritual Companion for Infertility and
Pregnancy Loss" (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1999).
* Reform: Reform believes that times have changed from the days of
the large family and common infant deaths of tradition. This has
made all events in a child's life more significant and magnified.
Thsi includes the tragic death of a yong child, a still-birth, or
a miscarriage. A responsa issued in 1983 (Contemporary American
Reform Responsa #106) suggests that there be a simple burial for a
still-born infant or a child who dies at an early age. This
provides a way for the family to overcome its grief. It indicates
that a miscarriage may, however, be disposed of by the hospital or
clinic in accordance with its usual procedures. Not burial is
necessary in such a case, but it is not prohibited either. They do
suggest burial for infants, and possibly for still-births.
Personal autonomy allows laypeople and rabbis to observe or not
observe as they see fit.
Subject: Question 21.2.8: Naming: Are there any distinctly non-Jewish names?
Yes. There are a number:
Sorrow of the mother of our lord
However, even such names are not always clear. For example, in Israel,
"Natali" is considered a Hebrew name , meaning "my plant, etc." (or
literally, "it was planted to me").
Subject: Question 21.3.1: Playtime: Can I let my kid swim on Shabbat?
There are two documented concerns for traditional Jews. First, the
Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaiim 326:7) discusses washing (presumably for
hygienic reasons) in a river, and permits it provided that the person
dry him/herself completely before walking four amot in a karmelit
(i.e., the banks of the river). The Mishna Brurah (loc cit., note 21)
points out that other (later?) authorities have ruled against washing
in a river on Shabbat, because of the possible wringing out of the
towel (an av m'lakha -- major category of activity forbidden on
Shabbat). Hence, there appears to be concern about wringing out a
towel after swimming.
More directly, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaiim 339:2) rules against
swimming (recreational?) in a pool on Shabbat, on the grounds that a
person might make a "havit shel sha'yatin" (raft, float), and that
swimming might force water out of the pool and outside the eruv. But
if there is a rim around the pool (so that there is no possibility of
water spilling over the edge), there is also no concern that the
swimmer will make a raft or float.
There are also some other potential violations, but these are the two
clearly documented ones.
To Conservative Jews, this concern is not relevent today; when
swimmers wish to use such devices in modern society, they purchase
them ahead of time, and do not actually build one on the beach.
Subject: Question 21.3.2: Playtime: Can I let my kid play in the sandbox on
For traditional Jews, there are some aspects of sandbox play that
cross into traditionally prohibited activities for Shabbat, such as
straining, constructing, or digging. Although young children need not
be prevented from engaging in these activities, parents should not
encourage them to do it. As the child gets older, they can be taught
about the prohibited activities.
Subject: Question 21.3.3: Playtime: Can children play sports such as Soccer
The Shulkhan Arukh (Orach Chaiim 343) provides a general guideline for
raising children in an obervant home: As soon as a child is educable,
the parents should teach the child about observance. Thus, even a
three-year old (who, as a halakhic minor is not obligated to observe
Shabbat) should be taught the relevant rudiments of Shabbat
observance. This does not mean that the parent must take away a rattle
or battery-powered toy, but it does mean that, on Shabbat, the child
should be encouraged to play Shabbat-appropriate games. The R'ma and
the Mishna Brurah (loc. cit.) point out that, by the time a child
understands what Shabbat is (e.g., certainly by age 8), the child
should be avoiding blatant Shabbat violation. The Shulkan Arukh's
standard thus does not see the age of majority (13 for boys, 12 for
girls) as a threshold for observance, and does not permit Shabbat
violation by "educable" children (i.e., children above the age of 8 or
In addition to the standard 39 classes of activities ("m'lakhot")
forbidden on Shabbat, there is a prohibition against activities that
are inconsistent with the spirit of Shabbat. The Ramban, for example,
suggests that the obligation to "rest" ("shvita") on Shabbat is, in
fact, biblical; it is in any event certainly a major rabbinic
Thus, there are two general principles: Begin with Shabbat-appropriate
games and play as early as is practical, and encourage Shabbat-
appropriate activity, rather than Shabbat-inappropriate activity (even
if such activity does not inherently violate Shabbat).
What kinds of games and play are Shabbat-appropriate? Certainly
activities with substantial Jewish content (e.g., board games with
Jewish themes, available from many Jewish bookstores). Family
activities should also be encouraged; reading stories, reviewing
relevant parts of the weekly Torah portion, etc. Friday night bed-time
can become a special occasion for hearing stories of "when Grandpa was
young," or Chelm stories, or stories about SuperJew. When done
appropriately, children see Shabbat as a special treat, not as a day
when "we don't do these things."
Some children's games [e.g., those involving explicit violations of
halakha, such as games involving writing] are clearly inappropriate
for Shabbat in an observant Orthodox or Conservative family. There is
nothing wrong with saying "No, we do not paint on Shabbat." But it is
educationally a much sounder practice to say "We don't ride bikes on
Shabbat, but we do hear stories about Curious George going to shul."
In some cases, the question of whether a particular activity is
permissible on Shabbat requires halakhic expertise, and a rabbi should
be consulted. For example, Conservative authorities permit swimming on
Shabbat; most Orthodox authorities do not.
Note that some Orthodox authorities rule that ball-playing is
technically allowed within an eruv, based on the OH 306:45 and the
Rama's gloss and the Mishneh Berurah's note on this. However, this is
widely discouraged by rabbis as not being in the spirit of Shabbat.
Rabbi Neuwirth's Shmirat Shabbat k'Hilkhata states that playing ball
on Shabbat is okay for children, provided that it is within the eruv
and on artificial surfaces. The reason for this is that Orthodox
authorities feel that compacting dirt is a violation of a melakha
(forbidden Shabbat activity); thus the restriction to hard surfaces.
However, this should be checked with a local rabbi to determine
whether it is appropriate for your particular community; don't assume
beforehand that it is.
For those that follow Conservative practice, in "A Guide to Jewish
Religious Practice", Rabbi Issac Klein rules that some ball playing is
allowed on Shabbat, based on the Rama on OH 308:45, as long as we
distinguish between commercialized sports and activities one indulges
in for personal enjoyment. Commercialized sports and amusements are
obviously not reccomended because of the many violations of the
Sabbath that are involved. Individual sports and amusements in
themselves, where no other violation of the Sabbath is involved, are
permissible. Again, a key aspect is that one should avoid
participating in such activities to the point of overexertion and
fatigue, which would make the act not in the spirit of the Sabbath."
Hence, as a general principle, the best policy would be to give
children lots of experience with Shabbat as a day for enjoyable
Shabbat-appropriate activities, either synagogue- or family-centered.
The emphasis should be on "shabbat-appropriate" activities.
Subject: Question 21.3.4: Playtime: What is appropriate dress for swimming?
For girls, pink and frilly. For boys, anything that puffs up
enormously around their waist the second they get into the water. :-)
But seriously, this would depend how the family felt in general about
modesty. There are few exceptions for swimming, and the families who
are most careful about this even with young girls will not allow them
to swim in mixed groups if they are dressed "immodestly." Also, some
men and boys will not go out with their chests uncovered.
The extent to which modesty is a concern depends both on the movement
and the individual (some people are more modest than others). The more
Orthodox a movement is, the greater the concern about modesty in
swimming attire. Hence, it is difficult to give a broad rule. In
general, especially revealing bathing suits, such as bikinis and
thongs, are probably inappropriate (unless covered). Similarly, men
should wear boxer-style trunks. Lastly, remember that it is not a good
idea in general to start dressing very young children in ways that
mimic sexually suggestive adult dress.
A good approach to modesty is to wear a very long tee-shirt (i.e., one
that goes to your knees) over your bathing suit. Many people do so for
other reasons as well, such as to protect one's skin from the sun.
There is less of a concern around the immediate family. Note that men
and boys who are uncomfortable being bare-chested should also wear a
T-shirt. Obviously, a dark-colored shirt should be worn so it won't go
transparent when wet and defeat the purpose of wearing it in the first
Subject: Question 21.3.5: Playtime: Can my kid play with Playdough during
If you are talking commercial playdough, the answer is no. Playdough
contains chometz (products made from the 7 grains prohibited on
Passover). An alternative solution to Playdough might be real clay or
real modelling clay. You should read the ingredients to ensure that
there are no chometz or chometz-derived ingredients.
Note that, for traditional Jews, there would be a problem with real
modelling clay during Shabbat, given the prohibitions on constructing
things or creating (i.e, various forms of art).
Subject: Question 21.4.1: Eating: Where can I find kosher baby food?
In the U.S. and Canada, some Heinz, Beech-Nut and at least one organic
brand has at least a few kosher lines. Except with brands marketed
specifically as kosher baby food, one should always look for a
hechsher on the package, since many of these products contain meat and
other non-kosher ingredients.
Subject: Question 21.4.2: Eating: Where can I find kosher for passover baby
Alas, few of the major manufacturers make a line of baby food
specifically for Pesach, although in some areas a few manufacturers
do. A local "kosher store" just before Pesach would probably be your
best bet. However, you should check with your local rabbi or halachic
authority, because there may be leniencies available -- on a local and
limited basis only -- for products such as baby cereal or formulas.
However, you should not use such products without consulting your
Note: You may be in the position of having to make your own. Another
potential avenue is to check some of the online Kosher grocers, such
Subject: Question 21.5.1: Holidays: What are good activities for children for
the major Jewish holidays?
The Jewish Theological Seminary maintains a website for family and
children's holiday activities at
Subject: Question 21.6.1: Schooling: How do I determine the right type of
religious program: day school vs. afterschool?
A day school education has the advantage of keeping the child's
social, and secular training consistent. An after school program is
often perceived by the child to show that the religious education is
only an afterthought and is not as "important" as the "regular"
classes. A day school education will also cover more ground, be
integrated with the child's life, and teach the child throughout
his/her entire school career.
On the other hand, there are also advantages to public school plus
afternoon Hebrew school. These include having school friends in the
neighborhood, and the fact that non-Jews who go to school with Jewish
kids are probably less likely to grow up to be antisemites than those
who've never met a Jew before.
The determination of the most appropriate choice depends on many
factors: family finances, academic quality, child care options, the
community, the religious schools available (there are fewer Reform day
schools than Orthodox day schools, for example), transportation, the
quality of the public school system, the attitude of the school if
parents are not of the same movement, and other factors. Parents
should also consider how close a match there is between the day
school(s) available for their children and the family's own religious
philosophy and level of observance.
In any case, any form of Jewish education is important, and many a
committed Jew is the product of afterschool education.
Subject: Question 21.6.2: Schooling: How are teachers in Chasidic schools
In the U.S., the answer is mixed. Some teachers in chasidic schools
are licensed to teach by the state, and some are (alas) not trained
and high school graduates. This is because some of the teachers in
chassidic and more charedi Orthodox grade schools are products of
their own system. Typically they are young women with 9 months to 2
years of post-high school training. The rest of the teaching staff
(including all Special Education teachers) are better-trained, often
from outside the community. It is common is to draw former public
school teachers, perhaps ones who prefer the different hours, smaller
class sizes, or who like the idea of working within the Jewish
Subject: Question 21.7.1: B'nai Mitzvah: What is a bar/bat mitzvah?
A bar/bat mitzvah s considered legally responsible to fulfill the
mitzvos. A boy becomes bar mitzvah at the age of thirteen and one day.
Girls become bat mitzvah at age 12. This is usually celebrated by the
child being called to read from the torah at the shabbat closest to
their bar/bat mitzvah. As is common in Judaism, there is often a party
afterwards, which can vary from the simple home reception to an overly
ornate "theme" celebration.
Until the child reaches bar/bat mitzvah age, they are responsible only
as part of chinuch (training). After the bar/bat mitzvah, the child is
legally an adult in the eyes of Judaism. This means the following:
* They are now counted for a minyon (prayer quorum of ten).
* They are responsible for wearing tefillin.
* They are eligible for aliyot (being called up to read the Torah).
* They are responsible to fast on fast days.
* They are responsible for observing the mitzvot.
With respect to Bat Mitzvah. The event itself has been recognized for
* Rabbi Yosef Chaim in his book "Ben Ish Chai" [1883-1909, a rabbi
from Bagdad] talks about the day of a girls Bat Mitzvah as a day
of celebration on which she should wear a new outfit and say
"She'he'chiyanu" and include her entrance to the "burden of
Mitzvot" (Ol Mitzvot).
* Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim Z"l quotes from Rabbi Mussafya (1606-1675,
born in spain a rabbi and personal doctor of King Critian the IV
of Denmark. later he moved to amsterdam) that the day of the Bat
Mitzvah is a day of celebration and the dinner is a "Se'udat
Mitzvah" (mitzvah dinner).
* In Italy (Torrino and Milan) it was customary to gather the Bat
Mitzvah girls and the community during a weekday, the girls stood
in front of the open Aron Kodesh and recited (dividing the prayers
among them) a special prayer written for them which included a
blessing of Shehechiyanu and ended "Baruch Ata Hashem Lamdeynee
Chukecha" (bless ..teach me your laws). [note, the prayer was also
said by bar mitzvah boys]. Then the rabbi speaks and blesses the
girls and their families. Afterwards, there is a Se'udat Mitzva at
the girls' home
However, none of these ceremonies involved the girl reading from the
Torah. The first public bat mitzvah ceremony in which a girl read from
the Torah is believed to have been for Judith Kaplan Eisenstein z"l,
the daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of the
Reconstructionist movement. The ceremony has since been adopted by
almost all movements in Judaism.
Note that the focus of the bar/bat mitzvah should be the actual
ceremony, not the party afterwards.
More information on Bar and Bat Mitzvah may be found at
Subject: Question 21.7.2: B'nai Mitzvah: What's a good gift for a b'nai
The following are some of the ideas that have been suggested:
* Jewish books involving torah study.
* Ceremonial objects that allow observance at home: kiddish cups,
seder plates, havdalah sets.
* Ritual objects, such at tallitot.
* Gift certificants for Jewish bookstores.
* For girls, some communities give items for the dowry: sheets,
* Fountain pens. :-)
Remember that the gift is a celebration of coming of age. The present
should be useful throughout the individual's Jewish life. Argues well
for a fountain pen, doesn't it :-)
It is a good idea to have the child register at a good Jewish book
store so as not to be flooded with duplicate books or gifts. Gift
certificates are nice in that they allow multivolume sets to be
purchased without having to know the volumes that the child already
Lastly, you should not bring your gift with you to the ceremony (if it
is held Friday evening or before sundown on Saturday), especially if
you know the child is from a traditional Jewish household. For those
that follow traditional halacha, carrying is forbidden on Shabbat
[there are some exceptions, but as those vary from community to
community, its just best not to carry at all].
Subject: Question 21.7.3: B'nai Mitzvah: What is appropriate dress to wear to
the b'nai mitzvah ceremony?
Since the usual acknowledgment is by having a kiddush in the synagogue
the Shabbat of the bar/bat mitzvah (when the child is called to the
torah for the first time) appropriate dress is that to be worn to
Synagogue. This means you should dress as if you were going to the
house of someone you deeply respect. For men, suits or sportjackets
(subdued) and slacks. Ladies should wear appropriate dresses. In
traditional congregations, women should not wear pants, and the dress
should be appropriately modest (covering the elbows, knees, and not
low-cut in front).
In most congregations, when you arrive, men will be provided with a
kipah (yarmulke) to wear (of course, if you have one, you may bring
their own). In some, women also cover their heads; such congregations
often provide a covering.
If you are unfamiliar with Jewish congregational services, follow the
lead of others attending the services. Stand when they stand. You
should have prayerbooks provided.
You should plan to arrive on time, but no more than 1/2 hour late.
Subject: Question 21.7.4: B'nai Mitzvah: What are the characteristics of a
good b'nai mitzvah program?
An ideal program would start when the child is born and extend well
into early adulthood. Be cautious about any program that claims that
to prepare a child completely to fulfill his or her entire
responsibilities as a Jew in a limited period of time. A program that
encourages the children to pursue a lifetime of Jewish learning is
better than one that lets him or her "cram" for just a year. The
program should emphasize that Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the beginning, not
the end, of a child's religious education.
In any program a parent wants to have their child learn and be able to
do the standard requirements of that program for their ceremony. At
the very outset there should either be someone who will explain the
entire process, or some written materials that will offer a guide to
the congregation's program. Not every child is the same and not every
bar/bat mitzvah is the same. Rather, due to a variety of variables
(intermarriage, divorice, etc) some children are often facing more
than just the task of Hebrew and leading the service.
A key characteristic is parental involvement. When parents are
involved, even when they might not be able to help with Hebrew they
send an important message. They tell the child that this is important
to them the parents. A program needs to have a role that the parent
plays and places some responsibility beyond the financial and the
party. Our children need to feel our presence in the journey and
struggle to accomplish their bar/bat mitzvah. As a parent, you need to
understand the program, the Heberw and the expectations on both your
child and you. This will insure that it will be a family experience
and that Torah is truly passed from generation to generation.
Another factor is whether the program provides the motavation to
continue Jewish education. Far too often, we lose our children to
Jewish education after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The program must have
characteristics that will keep the child motivated to stay in a Jewish
learning environment. In general, look for programs that offer
extra-curricular activities in addition to just "parsha" tutoring, to
demonstrate that Judaism is something we live both in the synagogue
and away from it, and to encourage lifelong religious involvement with
Subject: Question 21.7.5: B'nai Mitzvah: How do I select a good b'nai mitzvah
A tutor is a less desirable option in general, because in a one-on-one
situation, the child will see Judaism as an activity apart from the
rest of his or her life. Synagogues will provide recommendations, but
probably word-of-mouth is a better option. Attend a few Bar or Bat
Mitzvahs and observe, not only to the quality of the singing, but how
confident the child is on the bima, and his or her level of
understanding of the Torah portion and haftorah. Beyond that, you
should look for a teacher with whom you are comfortable and can work
with. The teacher should be knowledgable, and should command the
respect of the student.
Subject: Question 21.7.6: B'nai Mitzvah: I need to speak at my child's
bar/bat mitzvah? What do I say?
One approach to the parent's speech is to use quotations from the
Tanakh or the Talmud, or other Jewish sources. The best speech,
however, is one that is simple and from the heart, and is to your
child, not to the audience.
Subject: Question 21.8.1: Other childhood lifecycle rituals: I've heard of a
ceremony called "Consecration". What is it?
It is a ceremony used in Reform congregations to mark the beginning of
formal Jewish education, usually with K or 1st grade. It is a group
ceremony often celebrated on Simchat Torah, and usually the young
participants are given a small replica of a torah (can you read
4-point type?) to symbolize the start of their study of torah.
Consecration is not based on traditional rituals, and is not observed
in Orthodox congregations. Some Conservative congregations do observe
the ceremony. They either call it "consecration", or opt for the more
In the Orthodox community in England and Australia: The ceremony has
nothing to do with children. The term "Consecration" refers to the
official unveiling of a tombstone. Roughly a year (although often as
early as 3 months or as late as 2 years), a minyan is held at the
graveside while kaddish and a few psalms are recited.
Subject: Question 21.8.2: Other childhood lifecycle rituals: I've heard of a
ceremony called "Confirmation". What is it?
In the non-Orthodox community, Confirmation is a ceremony used to mark
the end of the tenth year of formal Jewish education, and usually
corresponds to 10th grade graduation. It was originally introduced by
Reform to replace Bar/Bat Mitzvah, but has evolved to parallel Bar/Bat
Mitzvah, and provide a point of celebrating continuing Jewish
education past Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Confirmation is a time for young
adults to reconfirm the commitment to Judaism made at Bar/Bat Mitzvah,
when they were legally adults but in this day and age not likely as
mature as 12-13 years of centuries ago.
Unlike bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation is a group ceremony often
celebrated on Shavuot. It is not based on traditional rituals, and is
not observed in Orthodox congregations. Some Conservative
congregations observe the ceremony. It is either called
"confirmation", "graduation", or the more Jewish-sounding "Bikkurim".
Some refer to confirmands as "Sar Torah".
Subject: Question 21.8.2: What is Upsherin? I know it relates to the cutting
of the hair of boys at age 3, but tell me more.
Amongst Ashkenazic Jews, this custom is called upsherin, a Yiddish
word from the same root as the English "shearing". Upsherin is
prevalent in Chassidic and Sepharadic communities, communities that
share a number of Kabbalistically derived custom.
The more popular reason given for the custom is the law of "arlah",
that one may not use fruit from a tree until its fourth year. In
explaining the prohibition against needlessly killing fruit trees, or
wastage in general, the Torah (Deut) uses the expression "for a man is
a tree of the field" (what you waste now could cost lives later). This
expression could be taken to compare people with trees. Since the
"tree of the field" isn't harvested for three years, neither do we cut
a boy's hair.
But why just boys?
Those who keep the custom of upsherin also wait until the child turns
three before giving him a yarmulka and tzitzis to wear. Also, the day
of upsherin the child is taken to a teacher and shown the alef-beis.
In "the old country" the child would start cheder (single-classroom
school), now this formalized "start of education" is done instead.
This gives an explanation about why boys in particular.
The obligation to educate girls in Torah is functional--you can't be a
good Jew without knowing Judaism. However, for boys there is in
adddition an obligation to study Torah as an end in itself. Since
upsherin marks the start of the mitzvah of education, it's therefore
tied to gender. The educational aspect also adds a second layer of
meaning to the custom. The prohibition of using fruit of a young tree
is called "arlah". The same word used for an uncircumcised foreskin.
Circumcision is commonly used as a symbol of removal of barriers; both
in Jewish tradition, and in Paul's letters where he writes of
"circumcision of the heart". Here we see "circumcising" the mind and
head, removing the "arlah", as a preparation for schooling. Add to the
change in self image of the haircut and starting to wear tzitzis and
yarmulka, and upsherin becomes a rite of passage from babyhood to
Subject: Question 21.8.3: I've been invited to a Bat Barakah. What is it?
This is NOT a Jewish ceremony, although it sounds like one. The only
reference to such a ceremony is from a group called Family
Foundations, which is a Christian ministry, that has established a
ceremony called Bat Barakah, which is a Christian "Bat Mitzvah."
Subject: Question 21.9.1: Coping with other religions: My child says all of
his friends have Christmas Trees, and he wants one too. What do I
That as Jews, we celebrate our own holidays and that a Christmas tree
is a statement that one is celebrating a different religion.
Subject: Question 21.9.2: Coping with other religions: My child's non-Jewish
grandparents have asked her to help trim the tree. What do I do?
Some parents would say "yes" immediately; others would issue an
outright refusal. The child knows her grandparents are not Jewish, and
it might be helpful for her to see how they practice their religion
and what sorts of things are important to them. But this must also be
weighed against the potential for identity conflict and confusion in
the child, who may begin to feel as though she is "sort-of" Christian,
or Christian in some "honorary" kind of way. For young children (under
10), it is probably not a good idea, as their Jewish identity is not
yet fully-formed and they will definitely absorb the confusing message
that Christianity is somehow just as much a part of them as their own
Note that this answer does not address some of the potential
underlying reasons for the question; it assumes the child is being
raised Jewish by both parents (one, quite likely, a convert, although
there are situations where it is the grandparents that left Judaism
after the children were born). The question gains significance if
there is an attempt to raise the child with multiple faiths. Most of
the main Jewish movements (Reform, Conservative, and of course
Orthodoxy) do not believe that is possible, and recommend raising the
child within Judaism only. However, the issue is quite complex, and
some of the texts in the Intermarriage and Conversion reading list, in
particular, the "After You've Done the Deed" section, are appropriate.
Subject: Question 21.9.3: Coping with other religions: My child has been
invited to an Easter Egg roll? What do I do?
The answer to this is similar to Question 21.9.2. Some parents would
permit it, and some would not. As always, one must weighed any
benefits against the potential for identity conflict and confusion in
the child, who may begin to feel as though she is "sort-of" Christian,
or Christian in some "honorary" kind of way. Additionally, Easter Egg
rolls are public events, and one must be cautious about giving the
image that Jews observe such events (this is especially true if one
has obviously Jewish dress: kippahs, peyot, etc.). In general, it is
probably not a good idea.
Subject: Question 21.9.4: Coping with other religions: My child has been
invited to the Easter Egg roll on the White House lawn? What do I
Aside from the honor, the issues are the same as any ordinary Easter
Egg hunt. The public factor, however, is more critical. You do not
want to give the impression that this is an approved Jewish activity.
In general, we shouldn't let the "importance" of an occasion blind us
to our Jewish values. Don't leave them behind just for a chance to
meet the President. If you would ordinarily feel that it was not
appropriate, religiously, it's important to say no in this case, too.
Of course, if you insist on going, get the President's autograph.
Subject: Question 21.10.1: Growing Older: My child wants to start dating? How
do I ensure proper behavior?
Well, the "Dr. Laura" answer is for the child to wait until he or she
is ready for marriage before serious dating can begin. Certainly, it's
within the parents' right to be strict -- more than that, it is their
responsibility. Regardless of what "all the other kids are doing", if
you're serious about ensuring proper behavior, don't allow boys and
girls to be alone together. They have no "right to privacy" in an era
when teen pregnancies happen even to the smart kids (and even to the
Jewish kids), and if they are living in your home, you can create and
enforce standards you feel are morally appropriate. All of this may
sound a little on the tough side, but to any sensible parent, it will
seem like a small price to pay for knowing who your kids are with and
who they're doing it with until they are old enough to be trusted.
For those in the Conservative movement, the Rabbinical Assembly
Commision on Sexuality has published "This Is My Beloved: This Is My
Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate Relations". This booklet
instructs laypeople in Jewish tradition's views of all areas of human
sexuality, including dating and marriage. It is available from the
United Synagogue Book Service
(http://www.uscj.org/mall/bookservice.htm). More specifically, one
of the members of that commission, Rabbi Michael Gold, wrote "Does God
Belong in the Bedroom?" (JPS), which includes a chapter on this topic.
He identifies sex keys that parents can provide their children with
that will help them grow into responsible Jewish adults. These keys,
briefly stated are: self-esteem; a positive body image; accurate
knowledge about sexuality; Jewish values; a sense of holiness, and
proper role models.
The question that most Jewish parents ask today is how to deal with a
teenage child who wants to date a non-Jew. Rabbi Alan Silverstein has
dealt with the uneasy questions surrounding interfaith dating in "It
All Begins with a Date: Jewish Concerns about Intermarriage" and
"Preserving Jewishness in Your Family After Intermarriage Has
Occurred". [Jason Aronson Inc. 1995] Written on behalf of the
Conservative Movement's Leadership Council, these books offer a
comprehensive guide for anyone struggling with interdating and
intermarriage, from teenagers to parents to interfaith couples
wondering how to raise their children. Rabbi Silverstein's own
perspective on interfaith dating is that every date must be treated as
a potential mate: "If you are committed to living in the US, you don't
date a Scandinavian exchange student bent on returning home." With
great ease, he segues from a hard line on prevention to the hard
realities facing an intermarried couple. "The Conservative Movement's
approach offers a combination of compassion and principle, one that
teaches the ideal but deals with the reality." "It All Begins with a
Date" offers a preventive approach to inter-dating and intermarriage
and includes a section on raising children to value Judaism.
"Preserving Jewishness in Your Family" understands that when
intermarriage does occur, a new set of issues arises that requires
equally careful examination, discussion and resolution. More
information is available at
Subject: Question 21.10.2: Growing Older: What other forms of body
modification are allowed? Tattoos? Earrings?
In general, Judaism does not approve of the purposeful damaging of the
body or the making of permanent marks. Thus, tattoos, branding, and
the punching of holes through the body are not generally accepted.
Earrings are a special case. The Torah does record that wearing an
earring in the upper cartilage of the ear is a mark of slavery, and
thus is not allowed. Wearing an earring in the fleshy lobe of the ear
has a long history and has been allowed, but only for women. There is
also a history of Haredi Jews wearing earrings, and there are records
of Chassidic Jews wearing earrings to prevent or cure poor eyesight.
Subject: Question 21.10.3: Growing Older: When do I need to start worrying
about issues of modesty?
There are three issues with respect to tzeni'us (modesty):
1. The exposure of areas absolutely deemed erotic
2. An objective standard that isn't subject to societal norm
3. The societal standard
To apply this model to real life: Nudity, such as bathing, of the
first sort, as might be short shorts or bikinis. According to the
Aruch haShulchan, this is banned at least by age 3 for girls and 9 for
boys. The disparaty in age has to do with the difference in age
required for rape to be a realistic problem. This is true for all
people of the opposite gender, and according to this text, fathers
included. Some authorities are more lenient, ruling that fathers are
an exception to the three and up rule, and no prohibition starts at an
age where the child is too young to learn about such things, just as
in any other home.
A better known case of the second category would be going sleeveless.
Another that the Aruch haShulchan discusses is the Talmud's
pronouncement that a woman's hair (which is understood to mean a
married woman's hair) is erotic. This is an objective standard; it
holds even in societies that aren't shocked by these things. However,
it is also not blatantly erotic in the normal sense of the word.
Married Orthodox women by and large cover their hair (or at least know
they're supposed to). When one starts observing these depends on the
child; i.e., when they're educable in such matters (as in any
mitzvah). They ought to learn before reaching b'nai mitzvah age, but
the number of years before is going to on the child. This includes
sleeves that go past the elbow and skirts that go past the knee even
when sitting down.
However, when it comes to distraction for prayer, we go by what
distracts -- which is going to be societally determined. So, the Aruch
haShulchan rules that one may say Shema in the presence of a woman
whose hair is uncovered. Societal standards, in other words, things
that aren't blatantly erotic, aren't spelled out by halachah, but are
considered "not done", wouldn't apply between a father and daughter
until she is married. The word "wouldn't" is used because once we live
in a world where Calvin Klein can put up billboards of women in their
underwear and bikinis are acceptable, this category is empty. There is
nothing beyond the core of the body that will shock most people today
even when seen in someone other than one's daughter. However, if you
still haven't lost the art of blushing... your married daugher
shouldn't wear in front of you something that would make you blush if
worn by someone else -- even if the area exposed isn't spelled out by
Subject: Question 21.11.1: Resource References: I need some information on
Jewish Genetic Diseases. Where do I start?
There are a number of places that you can look:
1. Consult the "Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man" database at
The Johns Hopkins University
(<http://gdbwww.gdb.org/omim/docs/omimtop.html>), or the GDB
Genome Data Base (<http://gdbwww.gdb.org/>).
2. Consult the National Foundation for Jewish Genetic Diseases:
National Foundation for Jewish Genetic Diseases, Inc.
250 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10177
3. Check out the Jewish Genetic Disease Program of the Saint
Barnabas Health Care System (http://www.sbhcs.com/genetics).
This is a grant-funded program with the goal of educating people
about disorders more common in the Jewish population. The site has
information on common Jewish Genetic Diseases, and links to
information on the following individual disorders: Bloom Syndrome,
Canavan Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Fanconi Anemia (Type C),
Familial Dysautonomia, Gaucher Disease, Niemann-Pick Disease (Type
A), Tay-Sachs Disease, and Mucolipidosis IV. You may contact them
at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (973) 322-7020 for more
4. If you are dealing with a Tay Sachs related disease:
National Tay Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
2001 Beacon Street
Brookline, MA 02146
5. If you are dealing with Mucolipidosis Type IV (ML4), an inherited
metabolic storage disease traced back to Lithuania and Poland:
719 East 17th Street
Brooklyn , NY 11230
ML4 Home Page: www.ml4.org
6. If you are dealing with Fanconi Anemia, an inherited
Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Inc.
1902 Jefferson Street, Suite 2
Eugene, OR 97405
Home Page: www.fanconi.org
7. Check out some of the medical links at Hebrew University in
Subject: Question 21.11.2: Resource References: Are there any recommended
online resources on Jewish Childrearing or specifically for Jewish
With respect to Jewish childrearing, the following resources are of
1. soc.culture.jewish.parenting. The newsgroup
, and its parallel listserv, scj-parenting. If you cannot get the
newsgroup, you may subscribe to the listserv by sending the
subscribe scj-parenting your first and last names
to the Shamash List Processor <email@example.com>.
2. Torahtots. The Torahtots site (http://www.torahtots.org/)
provides lots of good traditionally-orented coloring pages and
information for children.
3. Jewishfamily.com. The Jewish Family site
(http://www.jewishfamily.com/) provides useful information for
raising a Jewish family.
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ?
There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ:
* WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an
online, hyperlinked version, go visit http://www.scjfaq.org/.
This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet
is generated from the web version. Note that the www.scjfaq.org
version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to
access the master, visit http://master.scjfaq.org/.
* Email. Scjfaq.org also provides an autoretriever that allows one
to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the
autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to
firstname.lastname@example.org with the request in the body of the
message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through
the FAQ autoretriever
(http://www.mljewish.org/bin/autoresp.cgi). For the FAQ, the
request has the form:
send faq partname
For the reading list, the request has the form:
send rl partname
"Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the
general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to
partnames for the FAQ:
+ 01-FAQ-intro: Section 1: Network and Newsgroup
+ 02-Who-We-Are: Section 2: Who We Are
+ 03-Torah-Halacha: Sections 3, 4: Torah; Halachic
+ 04-Observance: Sections 5, 6, 7, 8:
Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and
Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage
+ 05-Worship: Sections 9, 10, 11: Jewish
Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?";
Miscellaneous Practice Questions
+ 06-Jewish-Thought: Section 12: Jewish Thought
+ 07-Jews-As-Nation: Section 13: Jews as a Nation
+ 08-Israel: Section 14: Jews and Israel
+ 09-Antisemitism: Sections 15, 16, 17: Churban
Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews;
+ 10-Reform: Section 18: Reform/Progressive Judaism
+ 11-Miscellaneous: Sections 19, 20: Miscellaneous;
References and Getting Connected
+ 12-Kids: Section 21: Jewish Childrearing Related
+ mail-order: Mail Order Judaica
The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for
the Reading Lists:
+ general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources,
starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish
readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General
Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah
and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary,
Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew,
Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism.
+ traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle,
Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional
Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The
Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of
+ mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes
Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality,
and the Jewish notion of the Messiah.
+ reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism
+ conservative: Conservative Judaism
+ reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism
+ humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic
+ chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on
historical chassidism, as well as specific information on
Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other
+ zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of
Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in
+ antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on
Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression,
Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups),
Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other
+ intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So
You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional
Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An
+ childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections
on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks,
Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for
Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children,
Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children,
Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories.
Alternatively, you may send a message to
email@example.com with the following line in the body
of the message:
Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory
and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading
list, one would say:
* Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists
are archived on rtfm.mit.edu and are available for anonymous
FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL
Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the
pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL:
ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists
are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII
Subject: Jewish Childrearing FAQ Credits
The Jewish Childrearing portion of the s.c.j. FAQ was developed by the
soc.culture.jewish.parenting Advisory Board committee, the advisors
and moderators of the soc.culture.jewish.parenting newsgroup, and past
contributors to the S.C.J FAQ. Specific contributors include: Shoshana
L. Boublil, Rabbi Jim Egolf, Robert Kaiser, Hillel Markowitz, Jennifer
Paquette, and Linda Zell Randall. It is maintained by Daniel Faigin
[Got Questions?] Comments and corrections are welcome; please send
them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that the goal is to present a
balanced view of Judaism; where a response is applicable to a
particular movement only, this will be noted. Unless otherwise noted
or implied by the text, all responses reflect the traditional
viewpoint. However, you should not make any assumption as to accuracy
and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases,
it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi
is a good place to start.
A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and
understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the
computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000
remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you
think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o
Please mail additions or corrections to me at email@example.com.
End of S.C.J FAQ Part 12 (Jewish Childrearing Related Questions) Digest
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