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Naming Ceremony PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, September 07 2004 19:00
“Blessed are they who come here in God’s name.” All of us who were gathered at the Covenant Service for Children sang these words in Hebrew at the beginning of the ceremony.

The children -  Kristina, age 4, and Nicholas, age 3 - were the center of attention on the day they were formally received into the Jewish community. We, friends of Robert and Pamela, their new parents,  joined in celebrating an event filled with faith and tradition.

The Rabbi, Jonathan Kraus of Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, beautifully expressed the best hopes of us all when he wished for these children a life of learning, family, and good deeds. In his welcome, this community leader read from the tradition a passage that focused on guarding the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

In the story, the Holy One asks who would make the best guarantors of these scriptures?  The answer was neither the ancestors not the prophets. Rather, the children would be the best keepers of the Torah.

Next, the two children were placed in a seat that represented the chair of Elijah. It was this great prophet who called the people of Israel back to their covenant with God when they had strayed. And it is Elijah who will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.

The trajectory followed by Kristina and Nicholas over the past 10 months suggests that these are a brother and sister who have been uniquely blessed. After traveling to Ukraine a first time and being disappointed in their quest to adopt them, Robert and Pamela went back less than a month later and this time succeeded.

The new parents picked up the children in the city of Lugansk, a 12-hour train ride from the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Kristina and Nicholas then traveled with them overnight back to Kiev, then by plane to Krakow, Paris, and finally Boston. As their father reports the glad conclusion to their long journey, “When their passports were stamped on arrival at Logan Airport on the night of December 16, 2003, they officially became U.S. citizens and the journey was over.”

In her talk, Pamela recalled the history of her grandparents, immigrants who overcame poverty and passed on to their children a tradition of concern for family and the larger community. She also spoke with much affection of her mother Thelma Rose in whose honor the children were given additional new names, Rose and Thomas.

After listening to the accounts of the children’s arrival to their eventual home, the Rabbi joked about them both joining the ranks of the “wandering Jew” of the Hebrew tradition.

Before the end of the ritual, the children’s grandfather, a physician approaching 90 years of age, recalled with joy the birth of two other grandchildren and, by way of blessing, welcomed the addition of Kristina and Nicholas to their family circle.

Before lunch was served, guests raised their glasses in a toast and Rabbi Kraus led the traditional Hebrew prayer: “We praise You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.”

Then he blessed the two children with words based in the Psalms: “May God bless you and keep you. May the light of God’s presence shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s face always he lifted up to you and give you peace.”

The whole rite expressed the universality of God’s love. Many of the people who took part in it are not Jewish but we were made to feel part of the event. We were enabled to join wholeheartedly in the prayers that expressed joy in the children’s good fortune and that of their parents.

Though Kristina and Nicholas are still too young to understand the meaning of the event, even now they could feel themselves enveloped in a community of love. As they grow older, they can develop a deeper sense of the rich tradition that lies behind their being given Hebrew names.

If theirs becomes a spirituality that expresses the ideals held up for them in this ceremony, they will go far. Such values as these – learning, service to the community, fidelity to the covenant of the Jewish people, and respect for others –can help shape for them lives of real significance.

Richard Griffin