Life Cycle Ceremonies


Or Emet offers the full range of life-cycle ceremonies — Baby Namings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Weddings and Commitment Ceremonies, and Funerals. Our Madrikh, Dr. Harold Londer, works closely with individuals and families in crafting a ceremony that meets their wishes and celebrates the person(s) who is the focus. Our ceremonies run the gamut from highly eclectic to more traditional, depending on the wishes of families. Since we are a Jewish congregation, we do encourage the inclusion of Jewish ritual, though it need not be in the strictest traditional form, and Humanist adaptations are available. In all cases, and in keeping with our Humanist values, life-cycle ceremonies are highly personalized. We endeavor to have the person(s) being celebrated outshine the ritual. We celebrate their unique gifts, contributions, and future potential. In addition, we always celebrate families, generations, significant relationships, and community.

Baby Naming: Baby Naming is a warm and wonderful Jewish tradition. It is a time to welcome a new baby into your family, to celebrate the promise of this new life, and to celebrate the passing on of traditions from the generations in a way that honors both Jewish and Humanist values. Typically, the several generations of a family meet with our Madrikh and collectively decide on the shape of a ceremony to celebrate the naming of a new child. Every baby naming is unique.

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: These celebrations mark an important step toward adulthood. In the year leading up to their Bat or Bar Mitzvah ceremonies, youth study together and take part in youth-selected Jewish cultural, service, and tikkun olam activities. In celebrating this significant transition Or Emet puts great emphasis on allowing and encouraging the Bat or Bar Mitzvah youth to study and speak from a Humanist perspective on a subject of Jewish interest to her or him. This is one way we celebrate the youth’s gifts. One Bar Mitzvah, an avid hockey player, spoke on Jewish hockey players. Another spoke on the contributions of Jewish artists, and a Bat Mitzvah presented a scholarly study of different religions’ conceptions of God. The Bat or Bar Mitzvah youth may or may not chant part of their Torah or Haftarah portions, and may choose to deliver a Humanistic Torah commentary. The fact that the youth’s wishes and talents take strong precedence allows the person to shine through the ritual, which is precisely our intent as Humanistic Jews. Guests frequently comment on this fact as they express appreciation of the ceremony. Again, as with all Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies elsewhere, families and generations are honored.

Weddings and Commitment Ceremonies: Our Madrikh is licensed to perform weddings in Minnesota. Again, services are highly personalized and honor the wishes of the couple by allowing the couple to craft their ceremony as they wish. There may or may not be a chuppah or the breaking of a glass. The result is that those attending get to know who the couple are, not just that they are now legally committed to each other. A recent couple, for example, first talked about their previous lives, apart and together. Then the bride explained how they had arrived at the decision that the traditional institution of marriage could fit with their progressive ideology. She then went on to speak of their support for marriage equality. Or Emet is very excited that marriage equality is now the law in Minnesota!

Funerals: On the sad occasion of the passing of a member, our Madrikh meets with the family. They together plan a celebration of the family member’s contributions and legacy in the form the family desires. We believe that the potential of people to positively influence the world carries on in their children and grandchildren, and in all of the people they touched. Typically, several people speak instead of a single featured eulogy, underlining that this is both a family’s and a community’s loss. We honor Jewish tradition by including a Humanist adaptation of the Mourner’s Kaddish, although families may choose the traditional one as well.


B’nai Mitzvah reflections from past Or Emet students–

“It was so nice having all our family and friends come and celebrate our Bat Mitzvot, and take part in the service. Guitarist Amy Stubenhaus led us in the singing of traditional shabbat songs. I talked about my Torah portion from the Book of Exodus, and gave my interpretation of the story of Passover from a humanistic point of view. I played a song from “Ghetto Sketches” by George Perlman, a Ukranian Jew, on my violin. All in all, it was a great night.”    Julia Wolfe

“My torah portion was from Deuteronomy. I explained the rules which the ancient rabbis said traditional Jews were expected to follow, and then I questioned the relevance of these rules for today’s world. I played traditional Hebrew melodies on the saxophone. These traditional songs are part of who we are as Jews, and are especially important to our congregation because our focus is not on god but on the traditions and culture of Judaism.”    – Elana Dahlager


Would you like Harold Londer to officiate at your wedding or other important life cycle event? Contact him at