Life Cycle Rituals
Judaism guides us along a pathway through life by providing rituals that sustain us through birth, learning and growing, family building, and loss. Buoyed by community and inspired by Torah, these life transitions are opportunities to reflect on where we have been and what lies ahead. They help us consider what is precious to us and to convey our most deeply held values.
There are few moments more glorious than the sight of a newborn or young child hoisted high in the air by the Rabbi before receiving a Hebrew name. Relatives and friends join the congregation for Shabbat morning service. Before the open Torah, spontaneous words of blessings, songs of praise and expressions of delight shower the family as we welcome another new life to our community.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah
B’nai Mitzvah at Congregation Beth El are community endeavors. They provide a joyous opportunity for young men and women to learn, grow and celebrate together with family, friends and the congregation. We work together to provide every Jewish child with a rich and meaningful celebration of this important Jewish rite of passage.
Preparation for Bar and Bat Mitzvah at Beth El is a year-long process. While an important milestone, we view it as not merely a culmination of prior years of study, but rather as a place on the journey towards becoming learned and committed Jewish adult women and men.
As in all things Beth El, weddings weave tradition and creativity. Each marriage service, performed in accordance with Jewish tradition, leaves room for the couple’s unique expression. Before the wedding procession to the chuppah (wedding canopy) the couple signs their Ketubah before the full assembly of their guests. This Jewish marriage contract binds the couple to one another, and communal witnessing enriches the experience and deepens the connection between the couple and the community. Guests delight as the partners proclaim their loving commitment to each other. Following the ceremony, the now married couple is showered with sweets and a rousing rendition of siman tov u’mazel tov. (“A good sign and good luck”)
At Beth El we have members who are lifelong Jews, new Jews, and many folks from other faith traditions who learn and celebrate with us as co-travelers. Along the journey, there are always people who choose to pursue a path to formal conversion to Judaism. Each individual comes forward when they are ready, follows a course of study with our Rabbi, makes prayer and study a regular part of their preparation. Learning about Judaism in local Introduction to Judaism classes offered by the Union for Reform Judaism is always helpful to establish a foundation for Jewish life.
All this work is powerful and transformative. And when the time is right, we go to the Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Mikveh and Education Center, confirm intention and action by immersing in its living waters, and celebrate with our community the welcoming of a new Jew into our midst.
End of Life
The death of a loved one — no matter what one’s relationship in life — can bring a range of feelings, from intense grief to emptiness to deep spiritual awe. The Hevra Kadisha supports mourners as they begin to take the first sacred steps into mourning. Hevra Kadisha co-chairs answer mourners’ questions, send notices to the congregation, and provide leaders for shiva minyans. During a shiva minyan, family, friends, and fellow Beth El’ers come together with prayer, words of love and comfort, and shared memories of the deceased. This holy work holds congregants in the warmth of their community as they begin to mourn their loss.