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Aug 22 2014

My Island Family Surprised Me With a Simchat Bat

By at 1:44 pm

bagels

Lately, being Jewish on North Haven–the small island in Maine where we live–has felt like a non-issue, though I still tend to think of myself as the only one. Which made it all the more surprising when, as I was getting ready to leave the seasonal bakery I run and go pick up 3-month-old Penrose, my friend Rosa, one of the nearly 1,000 summer visitors we get out on the island, stopped me.

“The girls and Mark and I were talking and we wanted to organize a naming ceremony for Penrose if you’d like,” she said. “I bet it will be the first one ever on North Haven!”

I paused, momentarily stunned. I had considered a simchat bat ceremony for her, but real life took over, and between recovery, my husband’s return to work, and opening the bakery, we never got it together. I had also never been to one, and other than the bagel and lox spread at the end, I didn’t know what it would entail. To have someone else run it for us would be amazing. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 5 2014

Why is There No Ritual For the Completion of a Family?

By at 10:23 am

Roey

“Are you sure?” my OB asked at my very first appointment. “Yes,” I replied without hesitation. “Absolutely.”

Joking about my husband, the rabbi, she scheduled my third C-section for December 24th because “of course, the rabbi’s kid should be born on Christmas eve.” I laughed and then immediately requested that my tubes be removed during the surgery.

I was 37, it was our third child, and I knew we were done. My husband and I had discussed it already and had both agreed. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 17 2014

A Baby Naming? For a Boy?

By at 1:20 pm

baby-naming-for-a-boy

I glanced at the invitation, stroking a finger over the shiny silver and blue stripes. The teddy bear applique was sweet. I looked at the date and sighed. If it were almost anyone else in the world, I would have sent my regrets and a thoughtful gift. Attending this party required a 600-mile round trip with a 3-year-old and a toddler, and would be bookended by close-of-the-school-year madness. The idea alone was exhausting. I massaged the bridge of my nose.

I knew we had to go. This baby naming was hosted by one of my husband’s closest friends. They had grown up together, through high school and college, into careers and relationships. They served as best men at each other’s weddings. (His wife is actually the reason my marriage is legal. When my overwhelmed fiancé left our marriage license at home, she sped to retrieve it before the start of the ceremony.) Our firstborn daughters are three months apart, and they are already friends. They talk sometimes over Skype, proud dads grinning in the background.

I glanced at the invitation again. Wait a minute–a baby naming? For a boy? Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2013

Dealing With My Firstborn at My Daughter’s Naming Ceremony

By at 3:19 pm

baby naming ceremony howard wolkeSo last weekend was my daughter’s simchat bat, or baby naming ceremony…

First of all, I’ve got to say that the baby naming was SO much easier to deal with than the brit (circumcision) was for my son J. Of course for starters, you don’t have to worry about any snipping. My wife was thankful for that if nothing else.

Also, it was really nice to be able to decide for ourselves when the ceremony would take place. The eight day requirement is kind of restricting. For E, we were able to look at a calendar and say, “Hmm, when would be the best time for us to do this? When will family be able to come for sure?” Plus the fact that you can basically create your own ceremony that fits your style is really nice, too. So, for all those reasons, there was a lot less stress with the baby naming than the circumcision.

However, the second child’s ceremony does introduce a different type of stress–how to take care of the elder child. J is at that unique age where he isn’t young enough to totally ignore everything that is going on, while still not being old enough to fully understand why people would all be gathered for his baby sister who doesn’t really do much and certainly can’t play with trucks or trains like he can. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 24 2012

Photo Tips: Capturing Special Occasions & Parties

By at 2:04 pm

My beautiful Little Bird recently had her first birthday. In preparation for her big day, I decided to plan a decent sized party at a restaurant. As a photographer, I also decided to have a friend take some photos to commemorate the day.

blowing out candle

Ok, so you are probably thinking, “Why the hell would you want to spend money on a photographer for a first birthday?” Or for that matter, why pay for a photographer to document other important events in your little one’s new life, besides the obvious newborn shoot and maybe 1-year photo shoot. But I can tell you, I have shot my fair share of brit milahs, baby namings, baby showers, and first birthdays and it is nice to be able to look back and remember those moments. Not having to be the one behind the camera or relying on a friend or family member for the photos makes it even better. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2012

I Was Embarrassed of My Hebrew Name

By at 11:35 am

a necklace“How do you pronounce it? Ah-vee-tle? Ah-vie-tle?”

“It’s pronounced Ah-vee-TAHL.”

“Ah-vittle?”

“Ah-vee-TAHL.”

“Oh…yeah. I get it. That’s pretty.”

I always dreaded the first day of class from ninth grade on. Because on that first day you had to sit through roll call–where they ran down the list, calling out students one at a time, checking off attendance and putting faces to names. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. But my name? It always seemed to cause a stumbling block for folks, at least outside the Jewish community. Before entering the public school system, I attended a Schechter elementary and middle school where the name Avital never caused anyone to bat an eye. But once outside that comfortable Jewish space? There was no telling how my name would be butchered. Usually, teachers would mess it up a few times before I had to pipe up to correct them, drawing the stares of everyone in class. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2012

Traveling and Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Always Go Together

By at 2:02 pm

airplane flying through the skyIn about one month’s time, God-willing, my newest niece or nephew is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Dallas, TX. The following week, family from all over the country will descend on the Lone-Star State in order to welcome him or her into our family and into our covenantal people. I, however, will be making the trip alone. And it saddens me.

Different families have different approaches, I have discovered, when it comes to family simchas. As far as my family goes, presence at a family celebration, be it a college graduation or a baby naming, is de rigueur. Even when it involves cross-country flights. Distance was never considered a barrier to attendance. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, were finances. Somehow there was always a way for the family to be together.

Which is why my decision to travel solo next month is a painful one. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 13 2012

Behind the Scenes of My Daughter’s Baby Naming

By at 1:04 pm

baby naming ceremony at synagogueTime flies! It’s hard to believe I have a 3-month-old baby and will be heading back to work after the Thanksgiving holiday (boo!). Since she wasn’t a boy, we weren’t rushed to have a bris, but I always knew I wanted a Baby Naming Ceremony. I have been to many ceremonies, usually just a small moment in a Shabbat service, and never really thought too much about it, until it was my baby.

Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 15 2012

Name the Next Kveller Baby

By at 5:24 pm

debbie kolben pregnantFellow baby name fanatics: We have an assignment, and we can’t waste any time. Kveller’s editor, Deborah Kolben, is due in early November, and she wants our help. This baby girl will not go without the perfect name. Not on my watch.

Friends and family know that I’m something of a baby name enthusiast, to put it mildly. At one point I seriously considered changing our third child’s name when she was already 2 years old. Things got so out of hand that my husband demanded full naming rights to baby #4. Then, unlike with our other children, we adhered to the Jewish custom of waiting until the bris to announce our baby’s name. It was all very exciting and a great source of traffic to my blog. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 3 2012

How to Name a Child

By at 12:12 pm
Tamara Reese's Baby

Naming a Jewish child comes with much responsibility

Naming another human being is a tremendous obligation.

It is the first of many duties of a parent and the name you choose will grace your child from the moment they are born. It is how you as parents will come to know your baby and how his friends will eventually call to him on the playground.

Naming a Jewish child comes with added responsibility. A boy’s Hebrew name will be spoken by his parents during prayer and blessing. It is the name by which he will be called by the Rabbi to the bimah on his Bar Mitzvah and the one his wife will lovingly commit to under the chuppah. And, God wiling, after a long, fruitful life, that same name will be whispered in Yahrzeit by his children and grandchildren.

One of the main sources of inspiration we use when naming our children, for both their Hebrew and English (secular) names, is a family tree. My husband and I both come from diverse backgrounds and we feel compelled to give our children meaningful names that reflect what we have passed on both historically and genetically. Read the rest of this entry →

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