What is a Bris? Preparing Non-Jewish Family for Your Child's Bris Milah Ceremony

Posted on December 12th, 2023.

The birth of a child is a momentous occasion filled with joy and celebration. 

In Jewish tradition, one of the significant ceremonies that take place shortly after a baby boy's birth is the Bris Milah, often referred to simply as a "Bris." 

This ancient and meaningful ritual holds deep cultural and religious significance within the Jewish community. 

If you're planning a Bris Milah ceremony and have non-Jewish family members attending, you might be wondering how to ensure everyone understands the significance of the event.

What is a Bris?

A Bris Milah, translat ed as "Covenant of Circumcision," is a Jewish ritual circumcision ceremony that typically takes place on the eighth day after a male child's birth. It is a symbol of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, as described in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 17:10-14). The ceremony marks the inclusion of the child into the Jewish community and serves as a significant rite of passage.

The Bris ceremony is conducted by a qualified person known as a "mohel" or "mohelet." The mohel performs the circumcision and recites blessings, emphasizing the child's entrance into the Jewish covenant. While the circumcision itself is a solemn moment, the Bris also includes joyful celebrations, prayers, and a festive meal with family and friends.

Important Moments in a Bris Milah Ceremony

A Bris Milah ceremony is a deeply meaningful and significant event in Jewish tradition. It involves several important moments that symbolize the covenant between the child and the Jewish faith. Here, we'll explore these crucial moments and what happens during each of them:

Welcoming and Blessings

The ceremony typically begins with the gathering of family and guests. The mohel (circumciser) and the parents welcome the child into the room where the Bris Milah will take place.

The ceremony opens with recitations of blessings. The parents may offer their own blessings, expressing gratitude for the gift of their child and their commitment to raising them in the Jewish faith. Grandparents and other family members may also recite blessings.


The central moment of the Bris Milah is the circumcision itself. The mohel, who is trained and experienced in performing circumcisions, carries out this sacred ritual. The baby is placed on a special cushion, known as a "brit pillow," and the circumcision is performed according to Jewish tradition.

Naming the Child

After the circumcision, the child is given his Hebrew name. This is a significant moment as it symbolizes his entry into the Jewish community. The parents announce the name they have chosen, and it is shared with the assembled guests. It is customary for the child's name to be chosen with great care and meaning.

Covenant and Blessings

During the ceremony, the child is considered to enter into the covenant of Abraham, a central figure in Jewish tradition. This covenant signifies the child's connection to the Jewish faith and heritage.

More blessings are recited, emphasizing the importance of the Bris Milah and the child's place within the Jewish community. These blessings express hope for the child's health, happiness, and spiritual growth.

Festive Meal and Celebrations

Following the ceremony, it is customary to celebrate with a festive meal or reception. Family and friends gather to share in the joyous occasion, offer congratulations, and enjoy a meal together.

Welcoming the Child into the Jewish Community

Beyond the Bris Milah ceremony, the child's upbringing in the Jewish faith involves ongoing commitment from the parents and the community. This includes education, involvement in Jewish traditions and customs, and participation in Jewish lifecycle events.

Preparing the Family for Their Role

In preparation for a Bris Milah ceremony that includes non-Jewish family members, it's essential to ensure that everyone is well-informed and comfortable with their roles and responsibilities. This includes both the Jewish and non-Jewish sides of the family. Here are some steps to help you prepare your family for their roles in this meaningful event:

1. Communication and Education

Open and honest communication is the first step. Reach out to both your Jewish and non-Jewish family members and explain the significance of the Bris Milah ceremony. Provide them with information about the customs, rituals, and traditions associated with the event. This can help alleviate any anxiety or confusion and foster a sense of understanding and respect among all family members.

2. Explain the Different Roles

Clarify the roles that different family members will play during the ceremony. 

For example:

  • Parents: As the parents of the child, you will have significant roles in the ceremony. Ensure that both sides of the family understand your roles and responsibilities, such as selecting a mohel (circumciser) and participating in the blessings.
  • Grandparents: Grandparents often play an important role in the ceremony. If your child's grandparents are non-Jewish, explain their roles and what will be expected of them during the event. This might include reciting blessings, offering well-wishes, or participating in other aspects of the celebration.
  • Other Family Members: If other family members will have roles in the ceremony, such as reading prayers or reciting blessings, make sure they are aware of their responsibilities and the significance of their participation.

3. Address Concerns

Encourage open dialogue and address any concerns or questions that family members may have. Non-Jewish family members may have questions about the religious and cultural aspects of the Bris Milah ceremony. Be patient and provide answers to the best of your ability or involve a knowledgeable source, such as your rabbi or mohel, to assist with explanations.

4. Encourage Participation

Emphasize that the Bris Milah ceremony is not only a religious ritual but also a celebration of life and family. Encourage all family members, regardless of their religious background, to actively participate and share in the joyous occasion. This might involve offering blessings, sharing personal reflections, or simply being present to show support and love for the child and the family.

Related: Anesthesia for Circumcision in Babies: Options, Benefits & Risks 


A Bris is a cherished tradition in Jewish culture that holds deep spiritual and communal meaning. While it may be unfamiliar territory for non-Jewish guests, understanding the significance and customs surrounding a Bris can help you play a respectful and supportive role in celebrating this special occasion with your loved ones.

If you have any questions or need more information about attending a Bris, please feel free to reach out to the family or the Bris organizer. Your presence and willingness to participate with respect and understanding will be greatly appreciated.

At Seattle Bris and Circumcision, we are committed to providing expert Bris services and supporting families in their important cultural and religious traditions. 

If you have any inquiries or would like to learn more about our services, please don't hesitate to contact us at (856) 291-1873 or via email at [email protected]. We're here to assist you in every way we can, ensuring that your child's Bris ceremony is a meaningful and memorable experience.

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Please call me at 856-291-1873 to discuss any questions you may have, or to schedule a Bris or Circumcision.