L'Dor VaDor – From Generation to Generation
Our congregation celebrates life in its entirety. From the birth to b'nai mitzvah to weddings and funerals, we believe that Jewish tradition and ritual can help us to make meaning throughout our lives. We strengthen the bond of our Jewish values passed from one generation to the next through their observance.
In addition to the traditional Jewish life cycle ceremonies explained below, our clergy are also honored to partner with community members to create new Jewish life cycle moments, including those to mark pregnancy loss, gender affirmation, retirement, healing, milestone birthdays, and anniversaries, and more.
Below you will find some brief information about each lifecycle ritual and links to more information.
Birth: Welcoming New Members of our Family and our Community
The word Brit or Bris is short for the Hebrew phrase Brit Milah and means the "covenant of circumcision." Since the days of antiquity the Jewish community has welcomed newborn males into the community and into the covenant through this ritual. By definition the brit milah takes place on the eighth day of life (This, however, presumes the baby is deemed healthy enough for the ritual. If there is any question in this regard, the bris is delayed.). If the baby is born before sunset, that day is counted as the first day toward the eight days. If, however, the baby is born after sunset the new Jewish day has technically begun and the following day is considered day one toward counting the eight days. So important is this ritual within the Jewish community that it supersedes all holiday restrictions. For this reason, while Jewish weddings are not held on Shabbat or Holy Days, a Bris is held if the 8th day of life falls on Shabbat or any other holiday.
The person performing the ritual is known as a mohel ("moyel") or mohelet. They have special training in both the ritual and surgical aspects of Brit Milah. For a list of possible moyels please contact the clergy or the Temple office.
The ritual of welcoming a female child to the community takes place in what is commonly known as a naming, but also is referred to as Simchat Bat. There is no eight-day restriction for this ritual. Some families choose the eighth day, and others use the flexibility to find a time when the entire family can be together.
At TSTI, naming ceremonies in our community take place either during Shabbat services on Friday nights or, if a family so chooses, at home in a smaller more informal setting. Please contact the Temple office for more information or to schedule a naming in either location.
An increasing number of Jewish families choose to have the circumcision done while the child is still in the hospital. In such cases it is not uncommon for there to be a naming ceremony for a male child much like one that would take place for a female child.
Coming-of-Age Rituals for Jewish Young Adults
At TSTI, when our children begin their religious education we celebrate that moment as a community. This currently takes place on a Sunday during religious school hours. We also hold a special ceremony to mark the moment when our young people receive the portion of the Torah they will be reading when they become b'nai mitzvah. It is a wonderful moment that allows us to ritually mark the beginning of their journey.
B'nai Mitzvah is the age at which a young person becomes responsible within the Jewish community. At TSTI, we celebrate this for all students at the age of 13.
At TSTI, we maintain that celebrations are wonderfully important, but that they are in celebration of the educational and developmental achievement. B'nai mitzvah are simply a moment of celebration along the path toward becoming a Jewish adult rather than an endpoint.
At age 13 our young people lead a Shabbat morning service during which they read from and teach from that week's Torah portion. Preparation begins in earnest some nine months prior to that morning, but our young people's entire religious school education builds toward that moment and beyond. For more information about the b'nai mitzvah ritual at our congregation please click here.
The majority of our students choose to continue with their religious education after b'nai mitzvah. Beginning in eighth grade, and continuing through high school, our young people no longer attend religious school on Sundays, but rather come to Temple one night per week. Hebrew High has a far different and more relaxed approach to Jewish learning and is based on community building and discussion. For more information on Hebrew High School please click here.
The next milestone on this journey is known as Confirmation.
Confirmation began within the Reform Movement more than 100 years ago when, in seeking to become more deeply entrenched in American society, many Reform congregations attempted to eliminate the ritual of bar mitzvah. In its place they created a ritual known as Confirmation, which takes place in 10th grade and is attached to the spring Festival of Shavuot. Shavuot is the festival that celebrates the receiving of the Torah and the entire community entering into a covenant with one another and with God.
At TSTI, in our religious school the 10th grade year is a year of study spent with our rabbis. We discuss relevant topics and the ways in which tradition can inform the choices we make. It is a wonderful bonding year and a beautiful celebration for our entire congregation, as we acknowledge our truly remarkable young people. For more information on Confirmation please click here.
High School Graduation
At TSTI, Graduation from Religious School marks the culmination of a period of Jewish learning and bonding for our students. Among other topics, our 12th graders discuss issues of independence with trained facilitators to explore their expectations about college. Parents also have the opportunity to join in and discuss family expectations. The graduation service itself is a meaningful celebration of these wonderful young adults as they reflect on their time at TSTI and Hebrew High. The students lead the entire service, each reflecting on their time at TSTI and Hebrew High. Our 12th grade students know that temple and their clergy are never more than a phone call away and that TSTI is always a place they can call home.
Adult Life-Cycle Moments
Nothing is more joyous than the celebration of a wedding. And perhaps no other ritual has as many different dimensions and explanations for various rituals then the Jewish wedding ceremony. From the chuppah, to the solid gold rings, to the breaking of a glass at the end of the ceremony, the richness of this transitional moment is both beautiful and powerful.
At TSTI, our clergy are thrilled to officiate the weddings of any couple wishing to create a Jewish home, regardless of sex, gender, or faith background.
Weddings take place both within the synagogue and outside its walls. For more information please contact any member of the TSTI clergy.
When an individual chooses to formalize his or her relationship with the Jewish community, it is cause for celebration throughout the congregation and the Jewish world. Within Jewish life, conversion is not something that happens at a specific moment, but rather is an overall journey during which an individual studies, learns, grows, and experiences all of the richness of Jewish life. The process of conversion can take anywhere from nine months to something far more depending upon the individual and his or her journey.
At TSTI, at any given time our rabbis are starting with a number of different people for conversion. If this is something that is of interest to you, please do not hesitate to make an appointment by contacting the Temple office.
According to Jewish law, a Jewish marriage is begun with a formalized ritual known as Kedushin; a Jewish marriage is dissolved through a ritual known as Gittin. Many years ago, the Reform movement determined that a civil divorce was sufficient and no longer required the receipt of a Get prior to remarriage. If you find yourself in need of a Get in order to remarry, our clergy are more than happy to help you make such arrangements, or to mark divorce/separation with meaningful modern Jewish ritual.
Death and Mourning
The rituals surrounding death and mourning within Jewish life generally take two forms. There are rituals intended to show honor and respect for the deceased in the way that he or she deserves honor and respect. In addition, there are rituals focused on comforting the mourners and helping them through the initial and often challenging stages of grief. The wisdom of our ancestors is apparent in so many of our Jewish traditions that have developed over time and well prior to modern psychology.
There are a number of stages of death, burial and mourning that have been identified within Jewish tradition. The period between learning of a death and the actual burial is known in Hebrew as Aninut. During this period the plans and arrangements for the funeral and beyond are made.
The funeral homes in our area are excellent at helping our TSTI families with the logistics of these plans. Funerals may take place at one of the local funeral homes, at graveside or at the synagogue. We are honored to participate in such services, but please do not schedule a funeral in which you would like one of our clergy to officiate without first contacting the temple office. This holds true if you would like to use one of our worship spaces as well. We will do everything possible to accommodate your needs.
Shiva is observed immediately following the funeral. If you would like a member of the TSTI clergy or one of our lay shiva leaders to lead a night of shiva, please contact the clergy office so they can arrange it.
In addition, we will be honored to mention your loved-one's name prior to reciting Kaddish at each Erev Shabbat service for the first month after the death.
We know that each family and situation is different and, as a result, questions and needs will vary. Please do not assume that our clergy know about an illness or death. We want to be as helpful as possible, so please contact temple right away so we can help you walk through the process.
TSTI has two lovely cemeteries to serve our members. One is a small cemetery in Montclair that has been in existence since 1887, is available to community members and is under supervision of the Temple Trustees. Plots are available for purchase in this memorial park setting. An additional memorial park area is available within the Beth Israel Memorial Park in Woodbridge. There are also many cemeteries in the area that have been used by members of the TSTI community.
Buying a cemetery plot is often one of the last things any of us want to consider. But there is great security and peace of mind in planning for the future, knowing we can alleviate some of the stress and anguish for loved ones.
For more information please contact the Temple office.
Tzedakah for Lifecycle Events
Additionally, you can add a layer of tzedakah to an occasion through a meaningful gift to temple. Please consider the following worthy TSTI funds to honor a joyous occasion or a loved one’s memory.
Click here to learn about and make a Tribute donation.
Click here to learn about and make a donation to the Tree of Life Fund.
Click here to learn about and make a Yahrzeit donation.