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Ritual Throughout the Cycle of Your Life at Shir Ami


The clergy of Shir Ami are here to help guide you through all of the Jewish rituals connected to the cycle of life. From the joy of B'rit Bat to the somberness of Minyan and everything in between - each ritual is meaningful for your family.   While some rituals are intended for a person’s immediate circle of family and friends and others are meant to be celebrations for the entire community – we can make them special and personal. 
B’rit Milah (Bris)  |  for boys
When a child is born, if a boy, it is traditional and customary to hold a B’rit Milah (the covenant of circumcision) on the 8th day after the boy is born. The family will enlist the services of an experienced mohel (the person who performs the circumcision) and may choose to invite a member of the clergy to facilitate the spiritual elements of the ceremony. A b’rit milah is typically held in the family home, and at times in a larger space at the synagogue. Today, some parents choose to have the child circumcised in the hospital a day or two after the birth and before he and his mother is discharged. While this is a matter of personal preference, please note that a hospital circumcision done a day or two after birth is not considered to be a b’rit milah.
B’rit Bat  |  for girls
When a girl is born, the parents often conduct a ritual ceremony that enters the girl into the covenant of the Jewish people. Parents who prefer egalitarianism may choose to hold the ceremony for a girl on the 8th day (just as they would hold a b’rit milah). Others choose on a more convenient day (often a Sunday) within 2-4 weeks of the child’s birth. With the exception of the milah (circumcision) the blessings and ritual elements are very similar to a b’rit milah.
Baby Naming
A baby naming ceremony provides an opportunity to give a child their Hebrew name.  A family that opts out of using a certified and experienced mohel for their son may still celebrate this moment with Jewish ritual by having a baby naming. Parents will gather family and friends together (usually in one’s home), and ideally within 30 days of the birth of the child, on a convenient day of the week for this ritual.  A member of the clergy will lead special readings and share blessings, and the child is also given his or her Hebrew name.  Baby namings may also be held in the synagogue. It may be a private service in the sanctuary, or it can be incorporated into a Friday night Shabbat service.
Naming Ceremony
Children (and adults) who were not given a Hebrew name at birth may also reach out to a member of the clergy and arrange to choose a Hebrew name. Once the name is chosen, a member of the clergy may conduct a brief ceremony in their office or in the sanctuary. Please note that Brit Milah or Simchat Bat are considered to be covenantal ceremonies.  Families who choose to enter their child into the covenant of the Jewish people (even if one parent is not Jewish) are pledging to raise their child within the Jewish faith and tradition.  Therefore, it is not appropriate for a B’rit Milah /Simchat Bat to be conducted along with a baptism or other covenantal ceremony from a different faith tradition. Unfortunately, Shir Ami clergy cannot participate in a B’rit Milah/Simchat Bat if the child will also be consecrated in a different faith tradition. For a more in-depth explanation about this policy, please contact Rabbi Briskin directly.
When a child begins their religious school studies in first grade, we mark that moment with the ceremony of Consecration. On the festival of Simchat Torah (early fall) our first grade students and their parents are invited to celebrate a brief ritual during our holiday service which acknowledges the beginning of their formal Jewish education. Children must be enrolled in the Shir Ami religious school to be eligible for Consecration.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah | (B.mitzvah)*
When a child turns 13 years old, they become subject to the commandments (bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls). Those who have been enrolled in the Shir Ami Religious School and who have mastered the required material are eligible to celebrate this milestone moment in their Jewish educational journey. The b.mitzvah portal has comprehensive information about Shir Ami’s b.mitzvah program.  Note that in addition to religious school enrollment and meeting its attendance requirements, our b.mitzvah students also spend 10 months preparing by meeting weekly with tutors and clergy in advance of the day when they become b.mitzvah. On the b.mitzvah day, students help lead the liturgy of the service, chant verses of Torah, and prepare a short d’var Torah (speech) based on their interpretation of their Torah verse that they deliver to the congregation. B.mitzvah services are held primarily on Saturday mornings at 10:15 a.m. in the Abraham-Swerdlow Sanctuary. Periodically services are held at 4:30 p.m on Saturday, or on a Monday or Thursday morning, or the morning of Rosh Hodesh. Shir Ami tutors and clergy will help prepare all students who are becoming b.mitzvah at Shir Ami or in Israel. Families who choose to hold their service offsite, will be responsible for arranging for their child’s tutoring and preparation. Shir Ami clergy are generally not available to officiate at b.mitzvah services that are not at Shir Ami.

*B.mitzvah is a gender neutral term that Shir Ami has adopted to refer to a group or a class of students who are preparing to become or who have already become bar or bat mitzvah. The term, b.mitzvah, replaces the traditional gender specific “b’nai” mitzvah that is more commonly used.
Becoming b.mitzvah is a milestone marker on a child’s Jewish educational journey. We expect our students to continue their studies through the 10th grade confirmation year and perhaps beyond. Our 8th -10th grade curriculum shifts its focus away from b.mitzvah preparations and towards broader subject matters that are pertinent for teenagers. We utilize a blend of traditional classroom learning, experiential learning and service learning to help create diverse opportunities for post b.mitzvah engagement. Students who complete the 10th grade formal confirmation curriculum, taught by Rabbi Briskin and David Sandman, participate in a beautiful ceremony of Confirmation in May. They create and lead a service that reflects their understanding and perspective as Jewish adolescents.
Shir Ami clergy are available to officiate at your wedding. Members, and children of members under the age of 36, are entitled to the services of clergy as part of their membership. Couples who are not members of Shir Ami, or children of members over the age of 36 may enlist the services of a member of the clergy for an honorarium that is determined by the specific clergy person. Typically, a couple meets with the rabbi or cantor 4-5 times in advance of the wedding for several sessions of counseling. Rabbi Briskin utilizes a program called Prepare and Enrich with his couples.

Shir Ami clergy recognize the diversity of couples today. They generally officiate at marriages between someone who is Jewish and someone who is not, provided the couple plans to live a Jewish life, and, should they have children, commit to raise them as Jews. Furthermore, because a Jewish wedding ceremony incorporates covenantal language and ritual practices, Shir Ami clergy do not co-officiate with clergy from other faith traditions.

Shir Ami clergy recognize and celebrate marriage equality and will therefore officiate at same-sex weddings.
No one should be alone during a time of illness, of body, mind or spirit. Shir Ami clergy are here to help guide you and provide spiritual assistance. If you or a family member are hospitalized, please contact a member of the clergy so that we may call or visit you. We will also keep in touch with you throughout your recovery.

Many of our members endure long term or chronic illness; others are homebound. Our caring committee is there to help by providing periodic visits, making periodic calls, and helping with some basic needs as best as possible.

If you would like your name or the name of an immediate family member to be added to the refuah shleimah healing list, please contact Jodie Levinson in the office. Each Friday night we offer a prayer for healing in which we draw particular attention to the names of those members of our community who are in need of healing. Please note that hospitals do not provide us with names of our congregants who may have been admitted. The only way we learn about someone’s illness is by having you call us. Please do not hesitate to call to inform us of your or a loved one’s illness, surgery (major or minor), accident or other incident that may lead to hospitalization and/or long-term recovery.
Death and Mourning
The Shir Ami clergy are here to help shepherd you through this dark moment in the life of your family. A member of our clergy is always on call.

When a loved one dies, Shir Ami should be your third call, after first calling the mortuary (in our area most people use Goldsteins’ in Southampton or Joseph Levine & Sons in Feasterville-Trevose). After calling immediate family members, please contact Rabbi Briskin or Cantor Berlin.  In partnership with the mortuary, we will guide you through these difficult early moments of grief and mourning. We will help coordinate the funeral service (which typically involves an in person meeting so that we can take you through the service and also learn more about your loved one, especially if we didn’t know that person) and help make arrangements for shiva minyan services.

The funeral usually takes place 24-72 hours after the person’s death, however, sometimes it takes a bit longer, especially if people need to travel from far away. The mortuary will work with the rabbi or cantor to determine the date and time. Following interment, the family typically begins shiva—the first seven days after the burial. Many families choose to hold a shiva minyan service one, two or three nights (while some choose to hold a minyan service for the entire period of shiva). Rabbi Briskin and Cantor Berlin make every effort possible to lead at least one or two of the minyan services. We are also grateful to a cadre of Shir Ami volunteers who have been trained to lead Shiva minyan services when neither of us is available.

During the first thirty days after the death of a loved one (called sheloshim, the number 30 in Hebrew) we recite the name of those loved ones whom our members are remembering during our Shabbat service, just prior to the Mourners’ Kaddish. At the end of the Friday Kabbalat Shabbat service prior to the yahrzeit, the anniversary of the death of a loved one, we recite the names of those whom we remember that week, just before reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Approximately a year after the death of a loved one, an unveiling is typically held at which the monument stone or marker is dedicated. Shir Ami clergy are available to lead this brief ceremony or we can provide you with a service which you can follow. Unlike a funeral service in which several dozen people will attend, an unveiling is usually limited to immediate family and the closest of friends.
Mon, May 27 2024 19 Iyar 5784