My name is Gabrielle Lobb. I run a community arts charity through which I engage with young people and adults from diverse communities. I'm married to Richard, a musician, and we became parents to our son, Eden, in July 2010. We are enjoying this new adventure and attempting to make environmentally-conscious parenting choices as we go. We grow a lot of vegetables in our garden and have recently taken on an allotment - this all helps with our choice to eat an organic, vegetarian diet. I bake and supply organic cakes to some local cafes. I love music and theatre, camping, cooking and entertaining.
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Big Green Jewish is excited to host Gabrielle Lobb, a Jewish Parent living in North London. Gabrielle will be sharing the joys and challenges of trying to raise children in an environmentally friendly way.
Click here to subscribe to Gabrielle's blog - just tick the 'parent blog' box.
Welcoming a Daughter
There is a new member of our family, a daughter. A Jewish celebration for the birth of a daughter has a long history, but much of it went unrecorded, so in contrast to the ceremony surrounding the birth of a Jewish baby boy, there’s no set or typical service. Especially since we have a son and when he was born we were swept up by the drama of brit and pidyon haben, we were determined that Kezia's arrival should be marked in an equally significant way. Even the choice of her name was in part a way of demonstrating, to her and to the rest of the world, that equal opportunities are her right.
The lack of formal ritual means that there is space for creativity when publicly marking this joyous occasion and despite being thoroughly sleep deprived in those first days and weeks, we found we enjoyed the process of shaping our own ceremony. It helped draw our attention to the new baby as a person in her own right, especially as so much energy was diverted towards her boisterous older sibling! We found lots of useful resources online simply by searching for 'simchat bat' or 'jewish baby girl ceremony' etc. Anita Diamant's New Jewish Baby Book (mentioned last time) was invaluable.
We chose to hold the event on Rosh Chodesh, a new moon and the start of a new month in the Hebrew calendar, because of the special feminine connection to the moon and its cycles, in Judaism and wider culture.
We wanted to mark Kezia’s birth with a celebration and introduce a spiritual element to her identity. We devised a ceremony that incorporated some elements common to all Jewish ceremonial events (wine and food!), but which also included blessings and rituals that reflect the five senses. We decided to do this as the name we had chosen has associations with two of the senses – smell and hearing – and we hoped the ceremony would symbolically awaken our daughter to the world around her and encourage her to experience life with her whole being. The various blessings were recited by Kezia's parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.
We began with a traditional song of welcome, Brucha Haba’a (‘Blessed is she who comes’) representing the sense of hearing, as Kezia was carried by and passed across the generations from grandmothers to mother. In a family tradition that was started (and embroidered!) by my Mum, Kezia was carried on a cloth embroidered with the names and birthdates of her cousins and brother who had been carried on it to their brit/naming ceremonies.
Jewish women have traditionally been guardians of the light, kindling the spiritual flames every Shabbat and festival. For the sense of sight, candles were lit and the blessing recited by Kezia’s grandmothers in candlesticks which originally belonged to Kezia’s great, great Grandmother. We expressed our hope that their light would be a symbol of a link to her past and shine the way for her future.
For the sense of touch, we wrapped Kezia in the tallit under which we were married, symbolising the way family, friends and community welcome and embrace her.
The fragrance of spices arouses our most astute sense, hinting at the sweetness in the world. Kezia’s name means ‘fragrant’, and also the name of the Cassia spice (similar to cinnamon) so at this point we passed round cinnamon for everyone to smell (in a spice box which belonged to Kezia’s great-grandpa) as the blessing was recited by Kezia’s grandfathers.
Finally, the sense of taste was referenced with wine, the drink that is used to sanctify all Jewish celebrations, symbolising the link between the Jewish people and G-d. The blessing was recited as Kezia was given her first taste of wine.
We explained the choice of our daughter's name - Kezia features in the Old Testament, the second of the three daughters born to Job after his sufferings (Job 42:14). The name has been taken to symbolise female equality, since all of Job's three daughters received an inheritance from their father, an unusual circumstance in a time when women and men were not treated equally. Her middle name is Harmony - her Dad is a musician, so there is an obvious musical connection. In addition, she arrived in a harmonious way (being born at home unexpectedly!) and we wanted to express our hope that she will grow to live in harmony with herself, with other people and the world around her.
Before the closing blessings, Kezia’s brother, cousins and other children present helped us plant a tree to mark the occasion and we told this story from the Talmud:
Once Honi was walking along the road when he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked, ‘How long before it will bear fruit?’ The man answered, ‘seventy years.’ Honi asked, ‘Are you sure you will be here in seventy years to eat from its fruit? The man replied, ‘I found this world filled with carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, so I will plant for my children.’
(Babylonian Talmud Taanit 23a)
The ceremony was concluded with Shechechiaynu and Priestly Blessing, more singing and then came the customary 'celebratory meal'.
We took the tradition of distributing sugar and shallots at a pidyon haben and lent it a 'Kezia' twist by giving guests a cinnamon stick to take home and cook with, to spread the sweetness of the occasion even further.