After struggling to get pregnant for two years, we were finally blessed with four beautiful daughters: Olivia in 2006, Georgia in 2008, Raquel in 2010 and Harper in 2012.
For my husband, Brent, and me it has been the biggest joy to have four children, but at the same time it has seemed like we have been knee deep in babies with no time to think about tradition or ritual. Some days seemed tasked with learning and growing our family of six, while other days just seemed like surviving.
But when Olivia, our 7-year-old, and Georgia, our 6-year-old, came home from Sunday school asking what their Hebrew names were, Brent and I looked at each other with that infamous Jewish guilt I hear so much about. And we knew the time had come to have a proper naming ceremony for each of them.
Meredith Cahn, the rabbi at their Petaluma religious school, Community School for Jewish Learning, reached out to support us in taking the steps to name our children. It would be a “naming ceremony” rather than a “baby naming,” since they were no longer babies.
We also sat down with Rabbi Ted Feldman, our rabbi at B’nai Israel Jewish Center, to discuss naming our children and how we could invite our community to celebrate this quadruple simcha. Surely it would be a sight to behold naming four at once!
It turns out that picking Hebrew names was as difficult as choosing their secular names. We were brought right back to poring through baby books, name books and Jewish websites. We spent an hour in Rabbi Feldman’s office scouring through pages, and left with a short list of potential names. We promised to contact him once we narrowed it down to our final selections so he could double check that they were “kosher” (or usable).
We finally settled on four lovely names: Aviva for Olivia, because we wanted a beautiful name that she would think was beautiful too; Chaya for Georgia, because she is our spirited child and it seemed only appropriate that our child who was full of life be appropriately named. We chose Rachel for Raquel — I wish there was a less obvious reason for why we chose that name; and Shira for Harper, because Shira’s meaning of “song” was fitting for a little girl whose name in English means “harp player” and whose very existence has filled our hearts with many melodies.
We met once more with our rabbi to discuss the format of the service for the Shabbat morning we had selected and were pleased to learn that a student rabbi whom we’d met recently through a circle of friends would be assisting him in leading the service. It was a beautiful coincidence that she would be with our family that day, lending her song and amazing voice to our experience.
When the day finally arrived, May 31, to bring our children before our congregation, my heart was mixed with an appropriate amount of nervousness and joy. Our children were called in and given the blessings of our rabbi and our fellowship.
I felt so honored to be there with my daughters, family and friends. And even more relieved that our energetic bunch was on their best behavior for the ceremony.
No longer do I feel that there is unfinished business regarding the naming of my children. Not only do they feel like they now have something that was missing, but also I feel more a part of our community, having invited them to participate in our lives. And I feel pride that my Jewish children have their Jewish names at last.
Ronnie Blaustein is a member at B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma. In addition to being a working mom and juggling a busy schedule as a Realtor, she enjoys writing about her children and her life as a mother. Her blog Adventures in Mommyhood can be read at Petaluma360.com.