Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thinking about Dr. King

Tomorrow it will be 40 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. 40 years! I know this as well as I know my own birthday because I was born on March 4th, 1968 and Dr. King was killed on April 4th 1968. This makes my birthday forever linked to his death. When I was little my mother always told me that this meant that working for social justice was central to my being. Nice mom, no pressure there. I am sure that I will never be able to live up to this central creed, but I do my best.

After Max was born we decided that he would have a baby naming instead of a bris. The bris is the traditional way a male child is brought into the covenant of Judaism (it is a ritual circumcision done 8 days after birth). This is an ancient ritual that goes back to Abraham. In contrast, up until recently, when a girl was born there was no covenant to bring her into the Jewish faith. In the past 20 or so years Jews(non-orthodox) have been doing baby naming ceremonies for girls to welcome them into the faith. This seems not to be as binding as the bris, which is also known as the 'covenant of blood'. However, I believe strongly that as our society grows more egalitarian, so our rituals should reflect that. Babies of both genders should be brought into the Jewish faith in the same way. And since I completely disagree with circumcision for girls, the only reasonable alternative is to forgo the brit (or bris) for boys and do baby naming ceremonies for all babies.

The reason I am providing this background is that it is an important part of Max's birth story, and tied to the memory of Dr. King. Lisa and I decided that instead of a bris we would do a baby naming for Max. We chose Martin Luther King weekend for this celebration. In preparation for this ceremony we chose to incorporate many quotes from Dr. King and welcomed Max into our family which is as tied to our belief in social justice and equality as we our to the bonds of Judaism. I hope that in this way our family will continue the tradition of being tied to the memory and beliefs of Dr. King. I hope that as I can not think of my birthday without thinking of Dr. King, Max will think of his ceremony of welcome as inextricably linked to social justice and a celebration of Dr. King.