Agency Login


Lifecycle Resources

Local congregations, individual rabbis, agencies and organizations provide support, advice, counseling and services to assist individuals and families during various lifecycle events. The organizations listed below provide comprehensive information and referrals. See also Chapter 4, Religious Life and Congregations. Some of the following listings have been provided as a courtesy to our advertisers.


Other Resources

Birth, Adoption & Circumcision


Adoption & Infertility

Brit Milah (Circumcision)

The ritual of brit milah is performed to symbolize the covenant between God and the people of Israel. The brit takes place on the eighth day of a male baby's life (provided there are no health problems). Traditionally, the brit is performed by a mohel, a ritual circumciser familiar with the relevant laws and customs. Some of the following listings are provided as a courtesy to our advertisers.




Brit Bat/ Simchat Bat (Rejoicing For Daughter)

The birth of a baby girl is traditionally marked in the synagogue when her father or parents are called to the Torah on the Sabbath to give the newborn her Hebrew name. The past decade has seen the development of various naming ceremonies for girls. In fact, there is a growing liturgy around the brit bat, and various alternative rituals have been proposed. This ritual is frequently performed on the eighth day of a baby girl's life.

Pidyon Haben (First-Born Redemption)

A pidyon haben, redemption of a son, takes place 30 days after the birth of a first-born baby boy. The tradition is based on the belief that first-born sons were to serve God in the Temple. To redeem them from that obligation, five shekels were given to the Temple priests, who then served in the Temple instead. The ceremony today usually involves a symbolic charitable donation.

Bar & Bat Mitzvah

Typically celebrated in the synagogue, the bar/bat mitzvah marks a young person becoming an adult member of the community. Traditionally, the 13-year-old is called upon to recite the Torah blessings and to read a Haftorah, a selection from the prophets. Variations on the ceremony exist. Study programs are also available throughout the community for adult men or women who missed the opportunity to celebrate a bar/bat mitzvah as a teenager. Synagogues provide bar and bat mitzvah training. See Chapter 4, Religious Life & Organizations. Some of the following listings are provided as a courtesy to our advertisers.


For Reform and some Conservative Jews, the confirmation year (10th or 11th grade) represents a special time of celebration and commitment. It includes study and meetings with the rabbi, culminating in a special service, often held during the Shavuot holiday, which commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish people.


A ritual pool of fresh "living" water, the mikvah is used for both physical and spiritual purification. For some Jews, married life involves laws of taharat hamishpacha (family purity), which require a wife's monthly immersion in a mikvah after menstruation before she reunites with her husband. The mikvah is used today by some brides and grooms before their wedding. Jews-by-choice traditionally visit the mikvah as part of their conversion process.

Chanukat Habayit

In the traditional ceremony of "dedicating the home," a mezuzah is put up within 30 days of moving into a new home. A mezuzah is a small container that holds a handwritten scroll of parchment with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 on the front side and the word Shaddai (Almighty) on the back. The passages contain the Shema, considered the watchword of Jewish faith, proclaiming the oneness of God. The mezuzah is placed on the upper third of the doorpost, on the right side as one enters.


Marriage within the Jewish community is packed with familial, social and religious considerations. Jewish weddings are often a joining not only of two individuals and their families, but also of different parts of the community. Above all, a wedding is a simcha, a commandment in which the bride and groom rejoice. The main elements of a wedding are kiddushin and erusin—sanctification of betrothal; the betrothal blessing; presentation of the ring; reading of the ketubah (marriage contract) and its presentation to the bride; recitation of the seven marriage blessings; drinking of wine to sanctify the marriage; and breaking of the glass (to remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem even on joyous occasions). Additional traditions are the bedeken, in which the groom places the veil over his bride's face, and the encircling of the groom by the bride. Although a Jewish wedding need not take place in a synagogue, most Jews planning to marry turn to a rabbi or synagogue for some aspect of the wedding. For information about synagogues and rituals, see Chapter 4, Religious Life & Congregations. Marriage preparation classes are offered in many branches of Jewish Family & Children's Services, listed in Chapter 6, Social Services.

Marriage Officiating

Also see Chapter 4, Religious Life & Congregations. The following listings have been provided as a courtesy to our advertisers.


Couples contemplating divorce are urged to consult with a rabbi regarding the advisability of obtaining a religious divorce in addition to a civil divorce.


The Jewish traditions related to death and mourning are intended to recognize death as a part of life. Burial takes place as soon after death as possible.Traditional caskets are of plain wood; embalming and viewing of the body are shunned and flowers are discouraged. Rabbis should be consulted for specific questions about burial and mourning practices such as the observance of shiva, recitation of the Kaddish, yahrzeit observance and attending yizkor services. Funeral homes and chevra kadishas (burial societies) can also answer questions.




San Francisco

East Bay

Marin/North Bay

Peninsula/South Bay

Santa Cruz & Monterey