In April 2015, we created a ritual to say goodbye to our foster daughter Dafna. We gave out out little sheets for guests to fill out that say: My big wish for Dafna is ______ and my small wish for Dafna is ______. The ritual itself was modeled after a Jewish baby naming ceremony. In the first section my partner Jesse and I talked about how Dafna came into our lives and our family’s history of fostering (my grandfather was saved by the Nazis by a foster family in England; read the dramatic story here). We crowded everyone under a chuppah and closed with songs. Then we had guests call out the wishes for Dafna that they put on their sheets. Below is the text we used for the ceremony. We hope it will inspire those creating their own rituals of transition for a foster child.
Welcome to our farewell ritual for our daughter, Dafna Penina. Dafna never had a baby naming in our community because she arrived at our home when she was one month old and she came with a different name. We have informally given her the name Dafna Penina, in memory of my mother, whose Hebrew name was Devorah, and my aunt, whose Hebrew name was Penina. Dafna is also named in memory of my childhood friend Dafna Zamarippa who died very young, but was an important presence in my childhood. Dafna, we hope you grow up with so many of the qualities we found in those women. We hope you are optimistic and welcoming like my mother. We hope you are nurturing and caring like my aunt Peggy. And we hope you are creative and inspiring to those around you, like Dafna Zamarippa.
At a traditional Jewish baby naming ceremony we wish that the child will grow up to a life of TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general., chuppah (wedding canopy), and ma’asim tovim (good deeds). For this farewell ritual we’ve used these three concepts as our organizing principle. Torah literally means story, so we will begin by telling you the story of how you came to our family. Then, we will build a canopy in this room and everyone will gather under it to sing you a song. While under the canopy we will all tell you our wishes for you as your go on your way, both great and small. Those are the ma’asim tovim, the good deeds that we hope you will do and be surrounded by as you go on your journey. Finally, we will close by singing Shalom Aleichem, a song that we sing on Friday night to welcome ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends.. The final line of the song is “May you go in peace,” and we will end the ritual with that, sending our prayers for love and peace with you on your journey.
Read Tamar’s letter to Dafna, which she read during the farewell ceremony, describing her own family’s history of fostering, from escaping the Nazis to offering shelter to teenagers fleeing Vietnam.
Tamar Fox is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia with her partner, step-daughter, and foster daughter. Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, the JerusalemLit. City of peace From the time of David to the Roman destruction, Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the spiritual and governmental center of the Jewish people. During the long exile, Jews longed to return to Jerusalem and wrote poems, prayers, and songs about the beloved city. In 1967, with the capture of the Old City, Jerusalem was reunited, becoming "the eternal capital of Israel." Still, the longing for peace is unfulfilled. Post, Tablet, LilithIn the midrash (rabbinic story about the Torah story), Lilith is imagined as Adam's first wife. Because she wanted equality, she wss ultimately banished, and God provided Adam with a more obedient wife. Lilith, according to tradition, lives on as a kind of demon, causing men to have wet dreams and stealing infant boys from their cribs. Today, Lilith has been reclaimed by Jewish feminists as a symbol of women's equality., and many others. Her children’s book, No Baths at Camp, was published in 2013 by Kar-Ben and is a PJ Library selection.