Lifecycle Events

Celebrating milestones is an important part of synagogue life, and at Shaare Torah, we find joy along with every individual and family. We are also here to sit with you in moments of transition, loss, and uncertainty, bringing the comfort of community as you cope with the ups and downs of life.

Baby Namings/Brit Milah

Welcoming babies into our covenant with God is a powerful experience. For girls, this includes the opportunity for parents to come to a Shabbat morning service, take an aliyah Torah honor, and then a brief but meaningful ceremony during which the rabbi offers blessings and announces a Hebrew name for the child. Parent(s) participate by talking about the names they have chosen and offering their own blessing. In addition, the rabbi is happy to work with families to plan a home-based ceremony in which more families and friends may participate, using symbols such as candles, foot-washing, or the tallit to create a memorable covenant and welcome ceremony.

For boys, the rabbi can officiate along with a mohel at the bris ceremony. The rabbi is happy to consult in recommending the mohel, suggesting Hebrew names, and planning the ceremony. After the bris, the family is also encouraged to come to a Shabbat morning service, take an aliyah, and special public blessing for their son. In addition, on the 30th day of life, first-born boys born to parents who are both Israelites are “redeemed” in a special ceremony called Pidyon Haben. The rabbi can assist in officiating at the ceremony.

B’nai Mitzvah

It is always wonderful to celebrate adolescent coming of age for our children at Shaare Torah. We know that our families have very diverse understandings of their own Jewish priorities, as well as what they hope the Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah experience will look like.

  • Our “B’nai Mitzvah Experience” goal is to “launch” each student and family from their early experiences in Jewish education (religious school or day school) into young adulthood.  To that end, we help each family identify their goals in the two years leading up to B’nai mitzvah, including both family and student learning/experience projects, along with goals for preparation for the ceremony itself
  • Dates for Bar/Bat/B’nai mitzvah are generally assigned in the year a child turns 10 (generally 4th or 5th grade).  Formal membership is required for the rabbi to officiate at a Bar/Bat/B’nai mitzvah ceremony, as well as educational experiences defined in our b’nai mitzvah policy and a very reasonable b’nai mitzvah fee.
  • Students and families can choose between a ceremony held as part of our regular Shabbat morning service, a more private Shabbat afternoon service (which, depending on timing, may also include the evening service and Havdalah end-of-Shabbat ceremony), or on a weekday morning that traditionally includes a Torah reading (Monday, Thursday, or a Rosh Hodesh new month celebration). Families work with our professional staff to consider their goals to determine the most meaningful setting.

Aufrufs & Weddings

Jewish tradition ascribes the greatest joy to weddings, and at Shaare Torah, we are pleased to celebrate the coming together of couples of all gender identities. We welcome all Jewish families at Shaare Torah regardless of the Jewish affiliation of the partners.  As members of the Rabbinical Assembly, our rabbis officiate at weddings where both partners are Jewish by birth or by choice.  Our rabbis are available to officiate in our building, as well as at other venues in the Washington, DC area.  We also encourage all couples to celebrate their upcoming wedding publicly by taking an aliyah (Aufruf) at the Torah on a Shabbat preceding the wedding, with accompanying blessings, songs, and dancing.

Death & Mourning

Just as we share in one another’s most joyous moments, our congregation is committed to supporting individuals and families in their moments of sorrow and grief.  The community is encouraged to contact the rabbis as soon as a death occurs. Our rabbis are available to officiate at funerals in the Washington area, and we will support those sitting shiva with a minyan and service leader. Our Hesed committee provides a meal and takes care of other needs expressed by the mourners. Our rabbis are available to assist families in understanding and adapting Jewish traditional ways during the grieving period.