Life Cycle Events
Life Cycle Events
Congratulations if you and your partner are planning to get married.
Please contact Rabbi Paul Freedman or the synagogue office, if you would like discuss arranging a Jewish wedding ceremony, ideally before arranging a venue. In order to be married under our auspices, you must both be Jewish and both of you will need to be members of the synagogue. This can take between 4-6 weeks.
You are also welcome to contact the Rabbi if you are in a couple in which only one of you is Jewish (whether or not the non-Jewish partner is interested in conversion) and would like to talk through your options for marriage and the status of any future children.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah
We are extremely proud of our BM programme, supporting children and their families through this significant life-cycle event. Each year, over twenty young members of the congregation form a close-knit peer group, supporting each other and celebrating their transition to involvement in the community – and the world – as Jewish teenagers.
In traditional Jewish law (halachah), a boy was deemed to be Bar Mitzvah on his thirteenth birthday. A girl achieved majority at the age of twelve. From the age of twelve, for a girl, and thirteen, for a boy, the child assumed responsibility for themselves with regard to the performance of the mitzvot (the commandments). For a boy, this meant that he was eligible to be called up to the Torah and to perform other positive commandments. It also meant that the young person had to undertake responsibility to observe the negative prohibitions. Before his thirteenth birthday, his father was responsible for his son’s observance of the commandments.
From about the Middle Ages, a boy would be called up to read from the Torah on the Shabbat after his thirteenth birthday to make the transition from minor to ‘adult’ status according to traditional Jewish law.
Reform Judaism regards the moment of Bar/Bat Mitzvah in a slightly different way. To begin with, it also allows and encourages girls to become Bat Mitzvah at the age of thirteen. Traditionally, a girl did not participate in any ceremony to mark her transition from childhood to the age of majority.
Boys and girls who become Bar or Bat Mitzvah in our Synagogue are taking an important first step in their Jewish life. Of course, they will already have come from Jewish homes, celebrated the festivals and Shabbat and been taught Jewish values, and have attended Cheder, but Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a decision they make for themselves. On one level, it is a declaration of their seriousness and commitment to Judaism. They will have pursued an intensive course of study and preparation leading up to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
On another level, it marks the transition from childhood to puberty and the physical and emotional changes that take place in a boy or girl as they enter their teenage years. It is right that Judaism should mark these moments with a rite of passage. In more than one way, it is also an initiation rite. A boy or girl must master the skill of reading Hebrew, lead the congregation in public prayer and read or chant from the Torah. There is a fair amount to be learnt before a girl or boy becomes Bat or Bar Mitzvah.
In our Synagogue, young people are encouraged and expected to continue their involvement in the community either by joining the Family Corner Team who help look after the under 6s on Shabbat or by becoming youth leaders and some do both. They are strongly encouraged to continue with their Jewish education by joining the GCSE course in the academic year following their Bat- or Bar-Mitzvah, and to take part in a Kabbalat Torah service in their sixteenth year (Year 11). Kabbalat Torah means ‘acceptance of the Torah’, and is designed to deepen further the young person’s commitment to Judaism and to reflect the more profound knowledge and understanding they have of Judaism as a faith and culture. Those who gain the GCSE may choose to teach at Cheder by becoming classroom assistants.
BM Family Support Group
The purpose of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Support Group is to offer support, advice, help and encouragement to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah families on numerous points from serious religious issues to lighter matters such as the celebrations which a family may be arranging. We help the families on religious queries, lessons, attending services, dress, and family problems.
A group consists of about 5/6 families who form a Kiddush Group. During the sessions it is hoped that the families will get to know each other and form friendships as well as offering support to each other. The families (at least one parent, but hopefully both where applicable, and the child) attend these sessions. Many lasting friendships between families are formed in these ‘kiddush groups’.
If you have recently had a baby: Mazal tov!
Whether you have a new son or daughter, you may well want to organise a Jewish celebration of your new arrival.
New-born boys are usually given their Hebrew name at the conclusion of the brit milah (circumcision) ceremony, which often takes place at home with family and close friends. The synagogue office has contact details for local members of The Association of Reform and Liberal Mohalim, all of whom are qualified doctors.
Parents are also encouraged to hold a corresponding celebration for girls (a simchat bat, rejoicing in a daughter) at home, when her Hebrew name can be given. Please contact Rabbi Freedman if you would like help in preparing the liturgy for such an occasion, or indeed for any guidance in choosing a Hebrew name for your son or daughter.
Some weeks or months later, a baby blessing may take place in the synagogue towards the conclusion of the shabbat morning service. As well as giving thanks for the safe delivery of the child, this is a chance to welcome him or her into the community, and the Hebrew name, and a blessing, are given in public. Parents often sponsor a special kiddush after the service and may purchase a leaf for the Tree of Life to mark the joyous occasion.
If you would like to arrange a baby blessing for your child, please contact the Rabbi in the first instance. Once a date (and a name) have been fixed, other details can be sorted out with the office. For the ceremony, a special, individualised order of service will be produced.
If you are commemorating a yahrzeit:
ha-makom yenachem otcha / otach, may God bring you comfort.
The ceremony for lighting a yahrzeit candle can be downloaded here.
Death and Bereavement
Please check out our page on Death and Bereavement