The ceremonies that surround the birth of a child serve many purposes. They are the first in a series of lifetime rituals that can mark significant moments in their life and begin the journey of linking the child to their Jewish past and commit them to a Jewish future. Furthermore, they are a chance for the parents to thank God for their birth and reinforce the values that define their Judaism and Jewish life. Many ceremonies also provide a chance for the larger community to celebrate with the family.
The Brit Milah (circumcision) of a baby boy symbolizes God’s covenant (Hebrew: brit) with the Jewish people. Normally the Brit Milah takes place on the eighth day after the child’s birth, even if it falls on Shabbat or a holiday. The day of birth is counted as the first day, the Brit Milah’s date is normally the same weekday as the day of birth. Postponements are permitted, if the health of the child warrants.
The original motivation for the Brit Milah ceremony is not known but it is especially associated with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14) and Elijah (I Kings 19:14). For many Liberal Jews the observation of this practice is confirmation of a particularly ancient Jewish practice, deeply embedded in Jewish emotion. It is also the time when the child has his Hebrew (covenant) name conferred on him.
This ceremony is usually performed as part of a Shabbat Service. It enables parents to thank God for the safe delivery of their child together with relatives and friends and allows members of the community to share this unrepeatable moment and welcome the child into the community.
Throughout history, women have played their part in transmitting Jewish heritage from generation to generation. But originally within Judaism there was no specific celebration to welcome female infants into the Community. Over time Liberal communities have created their own ceremonies for girls. They are a wonderful opportunity to thank God for the child and to celebrate her birth and recognize Liberal Judaism’s egalitarian approach to Jewish tradition.
Orthodox Jews still practice Pidyon ha-Ben, more appropriately known as Pidyon Bechorot (Redemption of the Firstborn Sons), an ancient ritual that relates to passages in Torah (Ex 13:2 and Num 3:11-13). Since Liberal Judaism no longer recognizes a hereditary priesthood and rejects the legal and ritual distinctions between firstborn sons and other children, this ritual is not observed in our community.
The literal translation of Bar/Bat Mitzvah is “son or daughter of the commandment”, which can be
translated idiomatically as “member of the covenant community”. While bar and bat mitzvah are often
used to refer to the ceremony, the terms also refer to the child. Thus, a boy if referred to as a “bar mitzvah” and a girl as a “bat mitzvah“.
Until the late Middle ages, at the age of 12 and 13 girls and boys respectively would become adults on the occasion of their birthdays. Adulthood meant an adherence to the Halacha (Jewish law) that bound all adult Jewish men and women. As time went on it became traditionally for boys to mark their entrance into adulthood by reading part of the weekly Torah portion.
Liberal Judaism affirms the equal status of boys and girls in religious education. Accordingly, we offer both Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies in our synagogue as part of a Shabbat Morning Service after their 13th birthday.
However, Liberal Judaism strongly affirms that this ceremony is part of a larger journey. Before the service children and their parents or carers are expected to commit to regularly attending classes and services at the synagogue. We also encourage involvement in a social action project as well.
Whatever a child can realistically achieve, we want them to do just that, and then slightly exceed their own expectations, so that they feel a real sense of achievement. Even more than that, we want their Bar or Bat Mitzvah to be one that they will always reflect upon as a positive and empowering Jewish milestone.
Liberal Judaism recognises that Bar/Bat Mitzvah may also be a meaningful ceremony for adults. Some may not, for whatever reason, have had a celebration of Bar or Bat Mitzvah as part of a Synagogue service when they were 13. Others may wish to renew or reaffirm their personal commitment to Jewish tradition.
Our rabbi is pleased to assist adults in furthering their Jewish education and in preparation for being called up before the congregation to read from the Torah.
Our community delights in celebrating the love of two people, regardless of gender. Marriage has always been a central part of Jewish life. The term for marriage, Kiddushin, comes from the Hebrew word for holiness and marriage is often seen as a way to experience holiness in our everyday lives.
Liberal Judaism has changed some aspects of the wedding ceremony to reflect the equal status of women and developed both liturgy and ketubot (marriage contracts) specifically for same-gender and non-binary gender ceremonies.
For many, the chuppah represents one of the first steps they take on their Jewish lifecycle journey, and we look forward to accompanying the couple during whatever else life brings their way. If you would like to have a Liberal Jewish wedding, please contact our Rabbi, who will be delighted to hear from you.
Liberal Judaism recognises that love often knows no religious boundary, and Jews do not always fall in love with other Jews. Rather than see this as a negative, we see it as an opportunity. We hope that instead of the Jewish partner ‘marrying out’, the non-Jewish partner will be encouraged to ‘marry in,’ whether figuratively or literally. We do this by welcoming non-Jewish partners and spouses into our congregations as valued friends and sometimes as converts under our auspices. Our Rabbi may offer a special marriage blessing ceremony which is different in structure and content to the Jewish marriage ceremony. To find out more about marriage blessings, and to discuss whether and how one might work for you contact our Rabbi.
Please, note that the religious ceremony is performed only after the registration of marriage by the civil authorities. The couple shall present the civil marriage certificate to the Rabbi prior to the wedding.
The date and time of the ceremony are agreed upon between the couple and the Rabbi. Weddings are not performed on Shabbat and some other days; it is necessary to clarify the date and time with the Rabbi before announcing the wedding’s date.
Confirmation of Jewish Status
We follow the traditional definition of the Jewish status: a Jew is either a child of a Jewish mother or a person converted through a recognised Bet Din (rabbinical court). Children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers are encouraged to clarify their status through the formal recognition under the guidance of our rabbi.
In some cases, for whatever reason, a Jewish person may discover that they are of Jewish descent without previous knowledge of this fact, or that after no formal Jewish upbringing or education, they would like to affirm their Jewish identity. Working with our Rabbi and usually engaging in a course of Jewish education and experience similar to that described for the process of conversion, the applicant can apply for the formal confirmation of the Jewish status.
We respect the philosophical and religious choices people make. Nevertheless those, who have renounced Judaism or converted to another religion are not eligible for synagogue membership and ritual honours. However, there is a way back to the Jewish community for those, who wish to re-affirm Judaism. If you arr in such a situation do not hesitate to contact our Rabbi for a non-judgmental discussion of your spiritual journey.
Death & Mourning
Our Rabbi provides pastoral care for those in the last stages of life and their families. The Rabbi shall be notified by the family of the deceased as soon as possible. The Hevrah Kadishah or the Ladies’ Union organise the Taharah (ritual preparation of the body for funeral) in agreement with the Rabbi.
Once a death has taken place, people vary considerably in what they require, and in how traditional they want the rituals and service to be. For that reason, in Liberal Judaism it is very much left up to the bereaved family to decide how they wish to hold the funeral and mourn afterwards. Our rabbi will give guidance where it is required, and explain practices at the time, but no-one is compelled to carry out rituals which they do not want to perform. The prevailing practice in Liberal Judaism is to let families and individuals make up their own minds whether they prefer burial or cremation, without any pressure being applied. We attempt to support families through all the traditional stages of mourning if needed or wanted.
In Luxembourg there are Jewish sections at the communal cemeteries in Esch and Luxembourg-Merl. According to Luxembourgish law, any person, who defined him or herself as Jewish and resided prior to death in Esch, may be buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery of Esch-Lallange. Those who were not residents of Esch, may be buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery in Luxembourg-Merl.
To arrange a tomb concession, contact the relevant municipality:
|Commune of Esch-sur-Alzette|
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
+352 2754 2520
|Commune of Luxembourg City|
44, place Guillaume II
+352 4796 2631
We do not oppose the burial of the non-Jewish spouses and children alongside Jews at a Jewish cemetery. Please, contact our Rabbi to discuss the details.
In case of Illness
We are always there for our members, both in good times and bad. Our rabbi provides pastoral care for members and their families in all stages of life. We are blessed with a developed network of healthcare and welfare organisations in Luxembourg.
All hospitals in Luxembourg have hospital chaplaincies. The chaplains are there to provide a listening ear, emotional support and spiritual support to patients, relatives and friends, and hospital staff. They can provide support during a crisis as well as during ongoing recovery. The hospital chaplains visit patients on the wards or in other areas of the hospital on request. Chaplains respect your personal religious or philosophical convictions. You don’t have to be a practising believer to use this service. If you would like to talk to our Rabbi, let the hospital chaplain know, they will immediately contact our Rabbi.
There is a religiously neutral Quiet Space (Lieu de Silence) in the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch in Esch which is open for private prayer, meditation and meetings with the chaplains or the Rabbi.
Quiet Space – Lieu de Silence
Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch