Jewish moms from around the world get Hebrew names in desert ceremony

Australian participant says she is ‘one step closer to feeling complete’ in her identity.

May 11, 2017 21:32
2 minute read.
Jewish moms from around the world get Hebrew names in desert ceremony

Jewish moms from around the world get Hebrew names in desert ceremony. (photo credit: AVIRAM VALDMAN)

A group of Jewish mothers from around the world on their first visit to Israel received Hebrew names Thursday as part of a trip called “MOMentum.”

The trip, run by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, is aimed at strengthening the participants’ connection to their Jewish heritage. It has been jokingly referred to as “Birthright for Moms.”

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The group went to Eretz Bereshit, or Genesis Land, in the heart of the Judean Desert Thursday to receive their names in the first of four ceremonies being held for 40 mothers throughout May.

One of the participants, Nathalie Scipioni, is an interior designer from Sydney, Australia, who now also goes by the name Shirel.

“I selected this one [Hebrew name] for the qualities I hope to have; expressing my connection to God and singing his praise to the world,” she said.

Scipioni did not receive a Hebrew name as a child because her mother, a French Jew, was baptized by parents who wanted to protect her after they lost family in the Holocaust.

“I was unaware of my origins until I was learning about the Holocaust at age 11 and then my mother finally told me,” she recounted, adding that getting a Hebrew name in Israel brought her “one step closer to feeling complete” in her Jewish identity.

“We learn that when a Jewish parent names their newborn, they receive 1/60th of prophecy; that the essence of the soul of their child is reflected in the name they chose. For those who never received a Jewish name, there is the perception that they were denied a part of their birthright,” said MOMentum trip leader Adrienne Gold.

“Judging by the free-flowing tears as these women declare themselves by their Hebrew names, the last pieces of their identities fall into place. Shakespeare asked ‘What’s in a name?’ Clearly he never attended a JWRP naming ceremony. What’s in a name is a piece of a woman’s soul.”

The eight-day trip aims to “help inspire a new generation of female leaders in the Jewish community and beyond,” taking participants across Israel, from Safed in the North to the ancient desert fortress of Masada in the South.

Since 2009, the JWRP, in partnership with 150 partner organizations in 26 countries, has brought more than 10,000 women to Israel. It has also branched out to men after observing demand for their own trip, dubbed “MoMENtum.”

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