Various traditional Jewish ceremonies attend the birth and naming of a child. The most important of these, for boys, is the Brit Mila (circumcision) ceremony performed on the eighth day of the boy’s life, which makes him a part of the Jewish people. Parallel ceremonies for girls, without any surgery are observed in many communities under the name of Brit Habat, Simchat Habat or Zeved Habat . On the first or second Sabbath after the birth, the father is called to the Torah in the Synagogue and the name of the child is announced.

Naming Customs

In the Diaspora, Jewish children are often given a Hebrew name for use in religious rituals, such as the calling up to the aliyah (reading from the Torah) and the ketubah (marriage contract), and a different secular name for civil birth records and daily use. Often they may be given a name such as Abraham, David, Isaac, Leah, Michael, Rachel, Ruth, Sarah or Saul, which is the same in Hebrew and English, though pronounced differently. Former Israelis and Jews who wish to identify with Israel or Hebrew culture may give their children distinctively Hebrew Israeli names such as Ari, Hadar, Lior, Liora, Noga, Zohar, Rahm or Ilana.

The formal full Hebrew name is in the form of “[child’s name] bar [father’s name]” for boys, or “[child’s name] bat [father’s name]” for girls. There are no universally accepted religious strictures on names for Jewish children, but there are some customs. Ashkenazic (European origin) Jews often name their children after a recently deceased relative, and avoid using names of living close relatives. It is usually not a good idea to name the child after biblical villains such as Ahab or Jezebel (the name means “dung heap”) or to give it the same name as a persecutor of Jews, either as a Hebrew name or as an “official” secular name.


Blessings of thanksgiving at birth itself are increasingly usual in Orthodoxy as well as in other streams of Judaism. The birth of a son can be marked by the blessing Hatov Vehametiv (God as good and doer of good), and a daughter is welcomed with the Sheheheyanu prayer, expressing gratitude for sustaining the lives of the parents to this moment. After the birth, a mother, or her spouse on her behalf, recites Birkat Hagomel (prayer of thanksgiving for being saved from danger) in the synagogue.

Modern innovations

In additional to traditional ceremonies and prayers, in recent years some Jewish women have developed special rituals and prayers surrounding birth and pregnancy. Some of these are new, while others are revivals of practices that existed prior to the 18th and 19th century enlightenment. In many Jewish families, it is customary to add a candle to one’s Sabbath candelabrum for each new family member. One ritual uses a rope or cord that was been wrapped around Rachel’s tomb. A group of women form a circle, and pass the pregnant woman around while she becomes entwined in this circle, while they recite adapted tkhinot prayers.