Naming & Welcoming

Child-Naming & Welcome to Life Ceremonies

» View A Jewish Humanist Brit Shalom Naming Ceremony

The purpose of a humanist baby naming ceremony is to welcome and introduce the baby to the family, extended family, friends and the community. It is also a celebration of the ‘miracle’ of birth … I use the term miracle not in a mystical sense but rather to express the joy, wonder and awe that we humans experience at the birth of a baby and the part that we all play in the continuation of our humanity.

The rituals of naming include the pledges (promises) of parents and any significant others the parents wish to act as mentors or guides for the baby through childhood and beyond.  There is also the naming ceremony itself in which parents can talk about the naming of the child and the significance of the name and the child in their lives. There will be some expression of humanist principles, which I include here for your information as well as the good wishes and intentions of parents and others for the child. There can be music, readings, stories, special foods fruits, bread and a birthing cake come to my mind.  As well as special naming tokens and gifts that can be presented to baby by parents, grandparents and the guests and if desired, the parents can also provide some tokens to the guests as ‘souvenirs’ of this joyous occasion.  Our joy is for this new life and for the fruitfulness and continuation of the life of the family, the guests and the community.

A humanist officiant can collaborate with you in creating a wonderful ceremony that fits with your personalities and your life circumstances.  Together you would decide what aspects to include in the ceremony and how to conduct it.


Humanism is a naturalistic, scientific, secular philosophy of life.  Humanists embrace core human values of respect, responsibility, compassion and love.  We look to nature and on-going inquiry for the explanation of life, rather than to a divine or transcendent being. We live our lives in the belief that this is our only life and that, therefore, we have a great responsibility to ourselves, and to the others with whom we share this planet, to make it the best life possible.

Humanism is an ethics or way of life based on human experience and imbued with compassion for other human beings that calls for a commitment to the betterment of humanity through the methods of science, democracy, and reason, without any limitations by political, ecclesiastical, or other dictates. Therefore, humanism supports the separation of religion from the democratic institutions of state and governance in respect of the diversity of individual belief systems. Humanists support personal religious observance in the company of like-minded believers as opposed to collective observance by the general population.  In that way, one can abide in relative peace and harmony respecting the individual right to believe or not to believe enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


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A Jewish Humanist Brit Shalom Naming Ceremony

A Brit Shalom Naming Ceremony is the choice of Jewish parents who do not wish to have the cutting of the foreskin in their son’s naming ceremony.   This choice leads to a more progressive secular Jewish Humanist approach that is also favoured by parents for their daughters.   The ceremony weaves in Jewish traditions and Humanist core values as well as creative innovations from parents and Officiant.

Dr. Gail McCabe is a secular Humanist Officiant of Jewish ethnicity affiliated with the University of Toronto Humanist Chaplaincy and appointed by the Ontario Humanist Society to provide life passage ceremonies.  For thousands of years, people have celebrated special moments in their lives, and in the lives of their loved ones, with ceremony and ritual, with feasting, music and dance.  So above all else, a Brit Shalom ceremony is about the expression of joy, the joy of welcoming a new life into the family and the community.

How does a Jewish Humanist Brit Shalom Ceremony depart from tradition?

A Brit Shalom ceremony that blends Jewish traditions with a Humanist philosophical perspective creates a third tradition that the parents have chosen as their child’s heritage.  The two originating traditions cannot be seen as oppositional because they share many values.  Humanism is an ethical philosophy of life based on reason and compassion, which shares with Judaism a commitment to “tikkun olam,” healing the world.  Brit Shalom is a Hebrew phrase with a long history of social activism. At its beginnings, it was conceived of as a Covenant of Peace, arguably an essential of ‘tikkun olam.”  By integrating some of the ancient Jewish customs in the ceremony, the parents are expressing their commitment to blend the traditions of Jewish culture with the cultural traditions that may be present in a mixed faith marriage as well as Humanist traditions a the basis of their child’s heritage.  In that way, the child will come to know himself (herself) as an individual whose roots are planted in the traditions of both parents who have given her (him) life.

As a Humanist, Dr. McCabe celebrates all naming and welcoming ceremonies as the fulfillment of a child’s right to be named as guaranteed by Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights.  In her words: “leading a naming ceremony is a privilege that allows me to join with diverse communities who honour the rights of their child and of all children through a formal ceremony.”