Monday, February 26, 2007

First Egalitarian Britah at the Minsk Jewish Campus: Rabbi’s Wife Has Second Baby with Initials AAA

Names. Everyone’s got one, and everyone’s indicates identity, sense of self, a personality. In Judaism, a name is essential to fulfill certain rituals such as aliyah to the Torah or reciting a prayer for the ill, and a seminal moment which marks the beginning of Jewish history is when God changes Avram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah.

Although today the Former Soviet Union possesses the third largest Jewish population in the world, it is still not customary for newborn babies to be given a Jewish name. Recently, however, a pioneering couple in the Minsk Jewish Community—Rabbi Grisha Abramovich of the Religious Union for Progressive Judaism in the Republic of Belarus, and Rabbanit Ira Abramovich, director of JCC Educational Programs and the madrichim school organized a rare baby-naming in the FSU.

The Brit Bat, Simchat Bat, or simply Britah is the covenant ceremony that parallels the Jewish newborn boy’s Brit Milah, or circumcision. Since by Jewish law girls do not get circumcised, the Britah is an opportunity to officially welcome a baby girl into the world.

Until Irra and Grisha, the few britahs that had taken place in Minsk were at the orthodox synagogue on Daumana Street. The only issue was that these events were few and far between, and was not spreading as a tradition amongst the less religious. Now upon the arrival of the newborn Abramovich, finally Minsk could make claim to an egalitarian baby-naming service. The event attracted hundreds of individuals, from the head of the JCC to the local representative of the Joint, and many others, all friends of the Abramoviches.

Upon the birth of their first child, they agreed that all of their children’s names would begin with the letter “A,” and so they named their first son Alexander Aharon, who had his brit milah at the synagogue on Daumana street. Their daughter Alisa Asnat was also given “A” names, keeping the memory of Rabbi Abramovich’s grandmother, Anna, alive.

“We gave her the name Alisa, Hebrew for joy, because we wish that she be the joy of our home. The name Asnat is the name of the wife of Joseph, because we wouldn’t mind our daughter marrying a successful important man,” explained Rabbi Abramovich over the phone.

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