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Babynaming: Simchat Bat
Simchat Bat. Photograph courtesy of Kolot.  The Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies at RRC

Mazel Tov! It's a girl.
The Simchat Bat

-- Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston

The scene centered on a beautiful Jewish baby, surrounded at home by family and friends, everyone anxiously waiting for the ceremony to begin. Until a few decades ago, the baby at the center of this ceremony would have been a boy with everyone awaiting the brit melah. This scene was different. The baby was a beautiful girl, and we were awaiting the beginning of her simchat bat, a relatively recent addition to the rich Jewish tradition of communal ceremonies. 

On the eighth day of life, the Jewish community welcomes newborn baby boys with the brit melah, or ritual circumcision. This ceremony continues an ancient ritual that began when G-d commanded Abraham to circumcise himself, his offspring and his slaves as part of the covenant (Genesis 17:9-14). I remember fondly the brit melot for my sons. Looking on with exhaustion (I was the host of a party, in my house, eight days after delivery!), fear (surgery on my precious baby), and, most importantly, tremendous pride (my sons were the link to the future of Judaism). 

With the birth of a daughter, synagogues honor parents with an aliyah during the torah service. My friends wanted more: a ceremony comparable to the brit melah to welcome their daughter into Judaism surrounded by friends and family. Drawing from the now rich literature on the simchat bat ceremony, they included blessings, psalms, and rituals including handing the baby from grandparents to aunts and uncles and finally to the parents. It was a beautiful and meaningful way to celebrate their daughter and for us, to welcome her into the fold. Just as important, I saw this as a way, right from her birth, to demonstrate that she was valued equally to a son.

For more information, read Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls Into the Covenant by Debra Nussbaum Cohen, or Babynaming: Simchat Bat from Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies.

Previous Columns

Raising A Mensch Section Editor: Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston parenting @ pjvoice.com
Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston is a practicing pediatrician, professor of pediatrics and Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She welcomes your comments, questions, contributions and suggestions for future columns.