The Hebrew words "berit mila" translate as "covenant of circumcision." ("Bris " is another common name for this ceremony.) Although circumcision has been practiced in different cultures for over three thousand years, in Judaism this act has taken on special significance and represents bringing a child into the divine covenant between God and the Jewish people.

Descriptions of circumcisions may be found in the Bible. In Genesis 17:9-13, God instructs Abraham to circumcise male children on the eighth day "throughout the generations."

According to Jewish tradition, it is a parent's obligation to circumcise a son and offer a threefold blessing for the child: a life enriched by Torah, the blessing of marriage (Chuppah), and the practice of goodness (mitzvah). Today, a mohel is routinely designated by parents to fulfill this custom.

Interfaith Families
The Reform Movement welcomes interfaith couples into the Jewish community and into the Covenant as well. Traditionally, a Jew is one who is born of a Jewish mother. Reform Judaism rejects birth alone as the decisive criteria in assigning Jewish status and identity.

In 1983, it was established that a child is considered Jewish if either parent is Jewish as long as there is an intent to raise the child as a Jew.

The bris is the first public and formal event indicating that the child will be raised Jewish.

The ceremony allows for the participation of the non-Jewish spouse as well as the Grandparents to the extent that they are comfortable.

Berit Banot, Covenant for Girls
Should you be blessed with a daughter, please note that female children are also part of the berit (covenant). Although no physical procedure is conducted, girls are fully welcomed into the Jewish community through a baby-naming ceremony. The Reform Movement has created this beautiful innovation which reflects the equality of males and females in modern Jewish life.

Dr. Meisel would be happy to create a meaningful service to welcome your daughter into the covenant of our people.

© 2000 Barry A. Meisel, M.D. — 914-659-5127
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