Life Cycle

Birth and Parenting

Welcoming a child into your family is often a kind of turning point for new parents in relation to their own values and their own identity. Many prospective parents get in touch when they want to discuss big Jewish questions such as, ‘will by child be considered to be a Jew if the mother or father is not Jewish?’ and ‘what about circumcision?’

Our spitirtual leader is available to members and non-members for discussion and information at this point. Kehillah North London follows principles laid out by Liberal Judaism and its Beit Din, and we will explain these so that you can make an informed decision about your child’s Jewish status and upbringing in the Jewish community.

As becoming a parent is often the time for putting down roots and making local friends, we could also put you in touch with our members with babies in your immediate neighbourhood.

Our crèche is a great place to bring babies, from birth onwards, and many new parents spend the morning at crèche getting to know others in our community. You are welcome to breast feed during all Kehillah activities and religious services.


Bar and Bat Mitzvah

No child needs to ‘have’ a bar or bat miztvah. They simply become bar or bat (son or daughter of the commandment’) on reaching Jewish adulthood, which in the progressive world is at 13 for both boys and girls.

Children who become bar or bat miztvah at our Kehillah have either grown up in our cheder or joined us and attended regularly for a minimum of two years. The Big Day is booked around 12-18 months in advance, and is chosen either because it falls on the Shabbat after their 13th birthday, or because the Torah portion or time of year has a special meaning for them. The young person will usually be able to read Hebrew before they start the process, but some have not yet begun. All of them manage to learn!

Continuing to attend cheder, they will meet with a tutor (who we recommend) either once a week or once a fortnight for nine months before the Big Day, learning to read their Torah portion both with and without vowels, and exploring the underlying meanings.

As a family you will choose how to involve your family members and our spiritual leader will guide you on roles for Jewish and non-Jewish relatives in the service.

Bar or bat mitzvah is a profound experience, for the young person and their families, and for a small community like us, every single one is treasured and makes an impact.


Wedding

Mazal Tov!

Your wedding is the first step in your future as a married couple. Every decision you make, and how you make it, reflects how you will deal with the challenges of the future.

A Jewish wedding can take place either in our regular venue, or at a venue you choose, and can take place in the evening or outdoors. Today, both same-sex and opposite-sex can marry in our Kehillah. As in all other synagogues, weddings in our community, are performed by our spiritual leader, and overseen by our Marriage Secretary, who handles the civil or legal aspects of your wedding.

A Jewish wedding is essentially contracted by the two partners present. They enter the chuppah, the wedding canopy supported on four poles, and either one or two rings are given and received, to signal the willingness of each partner to enter into the betrothal. They drink from two cups of wine during the ceremony, once to signal the betrothal and again to signal joy at celebration of the marriage through the seven wedding blessings. The contemporary Liberal Judaism ketubah, or marriage document, is read to everyone present: an egalitarian promise by both partners to love support, honour and sustain each other.

The Jewish wedding grows out of a rich and interesting history, and our rabbi works with each couple over a series of meetings so that they fully understand it and can together make key decisions about what will happen on the day.

If you are part of a couple where one member is not Jewish, we will work with you creatively. If you are planning a civil ceremony, we will work with you to bring your Jewish values, beliefs, and your vision of Jewishness in your relationship and family into the wedding day itself.


Divorce

Judaism does not regard divorce as a denial of the sacred, and accepts it as a sad but necessary reality of life. There are even explicit instructions for divorce in the Torah, the Hebrew bible, meaning the legal form of Jewish divorce is very ancient.

Liberal Judaism, growing out of a long tradition of Jewish religious reform, accepts the state legal divorce process as bringing about the end of the marriage. We do not require a religious divorce therefore for re-marriage in our synagogue.

If you are a divorced woman, it may be in your best interests that you obtain a get (religious divorce) and our spiritual leader will advise you about how to go about this. If you are a man and previously married in an Orthodox synagogue, we will require you to have granted your ex-wife a religious divorce, so that she is also free to re-marry.


Death

Jewish rituals around death sum up everything that is noble in our tradition. Once a person dies, their body is handled with utmost care and respect, as the dead person is in a state of utter vulnerability, they can do no more for us and we must now do everything for them. Every person is buried in the same simple plain wooden coffin, with the same set of simple linen shrouds.

The funeral itself is short. The eulogy is truthful, and should make the people present feel they can begin to mourn, because it sums up the essence of who that person was. There are no flowers or adornments, and the straightforward nature of the funeral itself brings the reality of their loss home; that person is truly gone.

Once home form the funeral, the mourners now enter a special sort of state, suspended from the ordinary world (hopefully) for 7 days of mourning. Family, friends and community come and keep them company, and prayers are held in the home. This stage is called shiva, which means ’seven’.

Nowadays, many people ‘sit’ shiva for only one or two days, but our Kehillah will support you to observe as many of the seven days as you wish.

The death is marked again at 30 days after the death, and then each year, on the anniversary, the yahrzeit, when their name is read out in synagogue and the community recites Kaddish.

We strongly encourage all of our members to join our Liberal Judaism funeral scheme, which covers all the costs of burial. Progressive Judaism also allows cremation. We have two cemeteries, at Edgewarebury and Cheshunt and cremations can take place anywhere.

Please do contact our administrator for details at info@kehillah.org.uk.