Every life cycle event is an opportunity to use the values and traditions of Jewish living to help address the deepest yearning of the human heart. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration is a growth experience for the whole family. A wedding brings individuals and families together to create a new home. And funerals and shivas are not formulaic; friends and family participate to share memories and support one another.
A Time to be Born
Because our cantor, David Landau, is also a mohel, every bris that he does captures the creative excitement of the Aitz Hayim community. Baby girls are named at the Torah on Shabbat morning when parents and grandparents are invited to tell the community the significance of the name and the first lessons they want to teach.
A Time to Become an Adult
A Bar/Bat Mitzvah occurs when a Jewish child turns 13/12 and wants to be part of the Jewish people. All the rest is celebration. At Aitz Hayim, each young adult “joins” the community by using his or her particular talents and interests. Some have led the entire service; others recited special brachot. Parents, grandparents, extended family and friends join in the service, standing at the Torah to tell the family story and share the family dreams. The musaf service is a time for a special family “offering”. Families have used multimedia to share their stories of Holocaust survival, investment in Israel and family contributions to community. All are drawn in, educated and moved. Then we throw the candy, sing, dance and share a kiddush lunch.
A Time to Drive a Car
In many ways turning 16 and getting a driver’s license, with the taste of adult freedom and responsibility, is the culmination of the beginning of adulthood that begins with Bar/Bat Mitzvah. That is why we developed the Car Mitzvah when a sixteen year old comes from the Secretary of State to the Torah to say a bracha and share their commitment to safety.
A Time to Get Married
Under the laws of the State of Illinois, and in Jewish tradition, our community is empowered to perform weddings. Our weddings are filled with warmth and love as family members speak and offer their blessings. Every marriage in the community begins with an auf-ruf, a shared aliyah to the Torah, where family and friends can share their personal and communal Torah with the couple before they go under the huppah. The wedding ceremony itself is planned to be personal and individual for every couple.
A Time to Die
Community support is vital in honoring the one who has died and comforting those who mourn. Our funeral plans with Chicago Jewish Funerals fit the range of Jewish traditions and personal family preferences.At the service, we encourage the family and friends to deliver the words of remembrance as the traditional psalms and prayers are recited.At the shiva, the community brings food and joins in a minyan that facilitates family’s sharing memories, stories and the telling of lessons learned from the person who has passed away. When the death is out of town, we support the mourners with an at-home memorial service to mark the end of sheloshim, the first thirty days of mourning.We recognize that mourning is never complete. At Yiskor, we create opportunities to recall and talk about those who are remembered before the prayers are said.