|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
I am a Christian who knows very little about Jewish traditions and customs. My son is married to a Jewish woman who bore him a daughter. The family is going to have a baby naming ceremony. I understand that it is customary for grandparents, among others, to make a statement at the service. Could you suggest something appropriate for us to say at the baby naming ceremony of our Jewish granddaughter?
In terms of Jewish custom, there are two kinds of naming ceremonies for girls.
1. The most traditional custom for hundreds of years is for a girl to be named during the course of a worship service in the synagogue and while the Torah scroll (the Five Books of Moses) is being read. This is generally done during the first month or two, but it can be held later. A special blessing of gratitude is recited for the healthy delivery of the baby and for the health of the mother. In order to "identify" the two in the prayer, their names are recited in Hebrew and English. Thus, the baby girl is "named." Similarly, when a boy is circumcised, the same prayer for healthy recovery is recited, and thus the boy is "named" at the circumcision.
These traditional synagogue namings for the baby girl are often followed by a "kiddush" (collation). Different people may speak during this kiddush. Most likely they would express gratitude for health and healthy delivery, and explain the name(s) selected for the baby, in Hebrew and also in English. This may be an opportunity for you to wish the young people and your grandchild the fulfillment of every worthy hope and blessings.
2. Today, many families are having less traditional, more creative, baby naming ceremonies for their newborn daughters in their homes. These ceremonies tend to be more similar to the bris or brit milah (circumcision ceremony) of the baby boy, which often takes place in the parents' home. These ceremonies are often less formal than the traditional synagogue naming ceremonies. At the naming in the home, relatives, including grandparents, may be invited to say a few words. Again, your wishes for the parents and their new baby would be appropriate.
I think you would find the books (2 volume set) "How To Be A Perfect Stranger" helpful and interesting.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)