The words "Jewish" and "baby shower" aren't often heard in the same sentence, but does that really mean Jewish baby showers don't exist? It's true that in many Jewish communities, baby showers are frowned upon. Why? Many Jews avoid baby showers (and even avoid purchasing clothes or furniture for the baby before the baby is born) out of fear that making a big (or even medium-sized) fuss about an unborn baby might cause something bad to happen to the baby or the mother.
The Evil Eye
This superstition stems from the notion of the evil eye, or ayin hara. In the Mishnah, a person with ayin hara is someone who cannot be happy for another's good fortune. She or he is distressed and angry when good things happen to his or her friends and even just having them look at you could cause you great harm or misfortune. As a result, many Jewish communities have developed a tradition of not calling attention to good things, so as not to bait ayin hara.
Still, it's important to remember that this is a superstitious tradition, and not rooted in text. According to Jewish law, there is nothing wrong with having a baby shower, but that doesn't mean it won't scandalize the ladies in the synagogue sisterhood.
A Second Opinion
In order to get some more insight on whether baby showers are truly a Jewish no-no, we thought it best to consult with the woman who always knows best--our resident Jewish grandmother.
This was her answer to the baby shower question: "If you're not superstitious, and if there's no indication that anything would go wrong, then I think it's okay. If it makes you uneasy, then absolutely don't do it. Do what your heart tells you. And if your heart says 'no,' then don't do it." That's probably a good plan. If you feel weird about having a baby shower, or if you're superstitious, then avoid it. But if it doesn't bother you at all, then go for it.
It may be that you feel uncomfortable about a baby shower because pastel balloons and a cake in the shape of a pacifier don't appeal to you. If that's the case, try coming up with an alternative baby shower, where you and a bunch of friends go get pedicures, see a play, or have a picnic. Instead of everyone giving you gifts for the baby, you can ask people to make contributions to women or baby-focused charities such as the Women's Funding Network or a local children's hospital. A baby shower that doesn't seem like a baby shower is much less likely to make you (or any of your more superstitious guests) feel like you're tempting fate.
And hey, b'shaah tovah! (It's customary not to wish pregnant women mazel tov, but instead to wish that the baby comes at a good and auspicious time.)