The Talmud teaches that “by the breath of children God sustains the world” (Shabbat 119b). The birth of every new baby is therefore cause for the whole community to celebrate. Traditionally, baby boys are formally welcomed into the Jewish community on their eighth day of life with a b’rit milah or bris, the covenant of circumcision. In this ceremony, which can be held at the synagogue or at home, the newborn is circumcised in accordance with God’s command to Abraham, “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days” (Genesis 17:11-12). The baby boy is also given his Hebrew name at the b’rit milah, which is often chosen to honor beloved relatives.
At Beth Am, baby girls are also welcomed into the community with a special ceremony and receive their Hebrew names at that time. Baby boys who did not undergo b’rit milah may also be given their Hebrew names at a naming ceremony. Namings may be done privately or during Shabbat services in the presence of the congregation.