Brit Shalom and Brit Bat

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Someone to perform a brit shalom or a brit bat

Nov 2008

My partner and I are expecting a baby this spring. We do not know whether we will be having a boy or a girl, but we do know that we would like to do a Jewish naming ceremony either way, and that if we have a boy we will not circumcise. We are looking for someone who would perform a brit shalom for a boy or brit bat for a girl, and who is accepting of lesbian families. Is there anyone in the the East Bay (we live in Oakland) who you would recommend?

Rabbi Sara Shendelman does beautiful baby welcoming/blessing ceremonies. She has created a very rich and warm ritual that engages the family and friends and is personal to the family both in content and in circumcision choices. She sings the prayers in Hebrew and English and has a lovely voice. Sara does a lot of work with the LGBT community. She is in Berkeley and her number is 510 644 2956, email: MoreTorah [at] Stu

Rabbi Andrea Berlin (Temple Sinai-Oakland) is wonderful and I am sure she would be happy to do any kind of naming ceremony you would like. There are quite a few lesbian families in her congregation and social circle. I actually just e-mailed her about your particular situation and whether I may recommend her and she said, ''Yes, of course.''
Rabbi Andrea Berlin Temple Sinai c/o Merritt College 12500 Campus Drive Oakland, CA 94619 510-451-3263 Office Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and certain Weekends

I have had personal experience with three local rabbis I can recommend who will officiate at a brit shalom. They are:

1) A rabbi who was ordained by the Reform Movement and currently serves Kol Hadash, a humanistic congregation in the East Bay: Rabbi Jay Heyman,,

2) A secular rabbi who leads the Tri-Valley Cultural Jews: Rabbi Judith Seid,,

3) A rabbi from the Renewal Movement who leads a Renewal congregation in Piedmont, Kehilla Community Synagogue: Rabbi David Cooper,

I'd be glad to tell you more about any of them, and to help you think through who might be the best person for your family. I run a nonprofit that helps people find ways to connect with Jewish life that will work for them. You can call me at 510-559-8140, email me at rabbibridget [at], or look us up at

You might also want to contact Jewish Milestones, a nonprofit that helps people find officiants for Jewish lifecycle rituals, at Bridget Wynne

Oakland is simply full of rabbis who are welcoming of lesbian couples and having a baby naming is pretty straight forward. It could be a bit more challenging to find someone who would do a naming but no circumcision for a boy. But not impossible. The real question is do you want to just do the ceremony and then move on? Or do you want to form a relationship with the rabbi and his/her shul and have an ongoing community there? Actually you don?t say you want a rabbi, maybe you just want someone to say a blessing and lead a naming ceremony?

You can call me if you like and we can talk about what you want specifically, Dawn, 510-845-6420 x11 or email dawn [at] Or you can call the rabbis at one of the Oakland congregations - Reform: Temple Sinai 451-3263, Rabbi Chester. Renewal: Kehilla Community Synagogue 547-2424, Rabbi David Cooper.

If you are interested in just being part of an LGBT Jewish group you could participate with Out & About at Sinai, a group started and hosted by members of Temple Sinai and run by Susan Krauss (sekrauss [at] They have potluck dinners and go to the SF Jewish Film festival together - things like that. Dawn