When we had our first daughter we were undecided on how we were going to raise her and what sacraments/traditions she would practice. After our second daughter was born we decided to expose our daughters to both faiths. More specifically, we became members of a synagogue and we plan on having them attend Hebrew school when they are older.
At the age you would typically plan for a naming ceremony, my youngest was hospitalized with RSV. She continued to have some breathing issues for a few months, so we postponed the naming until her 1st birthday. Since my eldest never had a naming ceremony, we thought it would be nice to do one ceremony for both the girls.
Like many mothers, I take on many of the responsibilities when it comes to planning any event for the girls; however, since this particular event was unfamiliar to me, I needed my in-laws and husband’s help. When we first decided on names for the girls when they were born, we chose Hebrew middle names in recognition of my husband’s faith. When preparing for the naming ceremony, I spoke with our rabbi who told me a little bit about how the ceremony would go and asked what names I was choosing for the girls. I told him the girls’ middle names and he proceeded by asking me who they were named after. Who were they named after? No one! I just chose Naomi and Shiloh because they sounded pretty and had a nice meaning. Was I supposed to name my girls after someone? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I was so confused and heartbroken that I had given my children the “wrong names.”
Since I clearly did not understand this process, I asked my Jewish friends for help. My husband honestly had no idea about a baby naming, had never attended one, and when I asked him questions regarding names, he told me to just use their middle names. Boy was I relieved when my friends informed me that their “Hebrew names” were not necessarily their given names at birth. My girlfriends both were named after family members who had passed away.
Now there was another issue at hand. My father-in-law told me that Sephardic Jews (his background) name children after people who may be living or dead, whereas Ashkenazim name their children only after relatives who have died. So, which one should I choose? We decided that we would name my eldest daughter after my grandmother (Ruth) and our youngest after my husband’s aunt (Esther). My grandmother Ruth passed away this year and picking this name was an easy choice. Esther, Jon’s aunt, is alive and well in Israel. We chose her name for my youngest, because of all the funny stories Jon’s father always told about their relationship as kids. Coincidentally the story behind their given names and Hebrew names is some what intertwined, and I think makes it even more special. Our youngest daughter’s middle name is Naomi and our eldest will be given the Hebrew name Ruth. In the Old Testament, the bond between Ruth and Naomi is one of the strongest of all biblical stories. Additionally, there are only two books that bear the names of women: Ruth and Esther.
Planning something when it involves my husband’s religion is always challenging. Our rabbi is very helpful but sometimes I feel foolish when I ask questions that I think my husband should know the answer to. Turning to my in-laws can cause more confusion, because my father-in law practices his faith in a more conservative manner than our Reform ways.
Honestly the best information I found was on Kveller. Just searching for “baby naming ceremony” provided me with so much information. I think it is so important that this website exists, not just for those that are of the Jewish faith, but for those who want to learn more about the faith and for those who might be attending a Jewish event and need guidance. I have already started searching the site for Hebrew school information and bat mitzvahs. Hopefully, when the time comes to plan, I will be better informed. Now if I could only find someone to pay for all these events, I would be set!