“New” Naming Ceremonies for Girls a Sephardic Tradition

Ruth Koffler

In LILITH’s second issue there appeared a description of a new naming ceremony for girls—”Ceremonial Welcoming for a Newborn Jewish daughter.” A centuries-old Sephardic birth ceremony for girls has come to our attention and is described below.

Las fadas (the fairies), the Sephardic naming ceremony for girls, dates back to a non-Jewish tradition of medieval Spain, according to Rabbi Marc Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York.

Medieval Spaniards believed that upon the birth of a child good fairies appeared to bestow their blessings. This tradition was Judaized by placing it within a religious framework. Friends and relatives were invited to the parents’ home, where the rabbi held the baby daughter and recited verses from the Song of Songs, announced the child’s name and offered blessings for her and her family. The baby was then passed around from guest to guest who also offered their blessings and good wishes to the family.

It is interesting to note that the direct translation of one of the passages from the naming prayer states, in blessing the mother, the wish that she be “the radiant mother of male children.” However, the text used by Congregation Shearith Israel is translated by Rabbi De Sola Pool to read “the radiant mother of children.”