Brit shalom (naming ceremony)

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Brit shalom (Hebrew: ברית שלום‎ ("covenant of peace"), also called alternative brit (or bris in Yiddish and Ashkenazi Hebrew), brit ben, brit chayim or brit tikkun,[citation needed] is a naming ceremony for newborn Jewish boys that does not involve circumcision. It is intended to replace the traditional brit milah, and is promoted by groups such as Beyond the Bris and Jews Against Circumcision. The term is generally not used for girls, since their naming ceremony does not involve circumcision.[citation needed]

Brit shalom is recognized by organizations affiliated with Humanistic Judaism like the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, and the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, but not by any of the major denominations in Judaism.[citation needed]


The first brit shalom ceremony was conducted by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, around 1970.[1]


There are different forms of brit shalom ceremonies. Some of them involve the washing of the baby's feet, called brit rechitzah.[2] Brit shalom ceremonies are performed by a rabbi or a lay person; in this context, rabbi does not necessarily imply belief in God, as many celebrants belong to Humanistic Judaism.[3][4]


Brit shalom is practiced by individuals in different non-Orthodox movements of Judaism. In 2014, a website listed 185 celebrants of brit shalom, most of them in the United States.[3]

They have different attitudes towards this ritual and towards circumcision. Some celebrants belong to the anti-circumcision movement. Other celebrants, while offering brit shalom ceremonies, view them critically. Reform rabbi and brit shalom celebrant Jerry Levy remarked to the Jewish Journal that ″brit shalom appeals mostly to parents who have a weaker sense of Jewish identity and less interest in Jewish continuity″; he views rejection of circumcision as ″part of this process of diluting Judaism″.[1]

The actual number of brit shalom ceremonies performed per year is not known. Filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, who is opposed to circumcision, said regarding its current popularity ″Calling it a marginal phenomenon would be generous″. This was confirmed by a survey conducted by the ″Jewish Journal″ among mohalim and brit shalom celebrants in the Los Angeles area. According to the New York Times and NPR, its popularity is growing, though.[1]


Ritual circumcision of a male child on the eighth day of life is part of Jewish law.[5] Although one does not need to be circumcised to be Jewish, Orthodox Jews consider an intended failure to follow this commandment as bringing forth the penalty of kareth, or being cut off from the community, as well as being indicative of a conscious decision to cut oneself off from his people. However, even in the most Orthodox groups, Jewish identity is defined by matrilineal descent. A child born to a Jewish mother is identified as Jewish, regardless of the status of the genitals.[6] In Progressive Judaism, uncircumcised boys are usually accepted for religious training and bar mitzvah if they are sons of a Jewish mother and have been raised with a Jewish identity.[5] Movements that do not see Jewish law as binding, such as Reform Judaism and Humanistic Judaism, may allow this ceremony.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jonah Lowenfeld: Little-known non-cutting ritual appeals to some who oppose circumcision. In: Jewish Journal. 2. August 2011
  2. ^ Brit Shalom/Shalem/Milim: Covenant of Peace/Wholeness/Words
  3. ^ a b Brit Shalom Celebrants Archived December 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Society for Humanistic Judaism
  5. ^ a b c Greenberg, Zoe (25 July 2017), "When Jewish Parents Decide Not to Circumcise", New York Times, retrieved 13 September 2017 
  6. ^ Goodman, J.. Jewish circumcision: an alternative perspective. BJU Int.. 1999;83 Suppl 1:22–27. doi:10.1046/j.1464-410x.1999.0830s1022.x. PMID 10349411.

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