Here are some true Jewish traditions. Ones that I took part in are in italics.:
When a child is born, parents choose a name, which is inscribed on the birth certificate. They also choose a Hebrew name but do not give it officially until the brit milah or simchat bat. In Jewish families of European origin (Ashkenazic), a child usually is named after a deceased relative. In families of Mediterranean origin (Sephardic), a child is usually named after a living relative the parents wish to honor.
Circumcision, or brit milah, is performed to symbolize the covenant between God and Israel. A healthy baby boy is circumcised on the eighth day of life. The ceremony includes giving the child his Hebrew name. Traditionally, circumcision is done by a mohel (a person ritually trained to perform circumcisions). When done by a physician who is not a mohel, circumcision may not meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Simchat Bat Ceremony on the birth of a girl
The birth of a baby girl traditionally is marked in the synagogue, when her parents are called to the Torah on the Sabbath to give the newborn girl her Hebrew name. Baby-naming ceremonies are also held at home or in a synagogue. There is a growing liturgy of rituals surrounding the simchat bat.
Pidyon Ha-Ben Redemption of first born
The pidyon ha-ben ceremony takes place on the 30th day after the birth of a first-born son. The tradition is based on the biblical understanding that first-born sons were dedicated to serve God in the temple. In order to redeem them from that obligation, five shekels were exchanged with the temple priests, who then served in the temple instead of the first-born. The ceremony today involves a symbolic exchange of five silver coins with a descendant of the Kohen family of temple priests. The coins then may be donated to a Jewish charity.
At age 13 for a boy, and 12 or 13 for a girl, a child reaches adulthood and becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, a son or daughter of the commandments. The ceremony is a public declaration of the child's acceptance of the obligations to fully observe the commandments and to participate in the Jewish community. This adult status occurs automatically whether or not a ceremony takes place. When there is a ceremony, it generally is celebrated in the synagogue. The child is called upon to recite the Torah blessings and to read a Torah portion. Friends and family attend the service and generally celebrate afterward with a festive meal. Although most ceremonies occur on Saturdays, they also can take place on Monday, Thursday or on holidays - the other days when Torah is read publicly in the synagogue. Though in the past girls were not called to the Torah, today, in most Conservative, Reform and Renewal synagogues, the ceremonies are the same regardless of gender. The tradition originated with the Reconstructionist movement. In some contemporary Orthodox congregations, the bat mitzvah is marked by a festive meal during which the young woman presents a Torah lesson. For adults who missed the opportunity to have a bar or bat mitzvah, there are study programs available throughout the community.
For Reform and some Conservative Jews, the confirmation year, 10th or 11th grade, represents a special time of celebration and commitment. Typically, the year includes study and meetings with the rabbi, culminating in a special service, often during Shavuot, since that holiday commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish people.
Conversion to Judaism is a path that requires both personal commitment and an extended period of study. Most rabbis are available to counsel and/or teach potential converts. Because programs and procedures vary, anyone thinking of converting should contact a rabbi and evaluate the programs offered.
Judaism views marriage as a sacred act, essential not only for procreation but also for self-fulfillment. Historically, according to the Talmud, marriage was established in three ways: 1) with money; 2) through a written document presented by the groom to the bride; and 3) through sexual relations. The present-day wedding ceremony incorporates all three symbolically. The presentation of a ring takes the place of exchanging money. The ketubah (marriage contract) is equivalent to the earlier written documents. Among Orthodox and some Conservative Jews, the third custom is represented symbolically by yihud (seclusion) - immediately following the ceremony the couple retire to a private room.
The marriage takes place under a chuppah (marriage canopy), symbolizing the home that the couple will make together as well as God's presence. The chuppah may be a highly decorated fabric canopy or a simple tallit (prayer shawl), supported by four poles. The main elements of the ceremony are: 1) Kiddush erusin, (sanctification of betrothal), 2) betrothal blessing, 3) presentation of the ring, 4) reading of the ketubah and its presentation to the bride, 5) recitation of sheva brachot (seven marriage blessings), 6) nissuin (drinking of the wine to sanctify the marriage) and 7) breaking the glass (to remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem even at joyous occasions).
Additional traditions that may occur in a wedding ceremony are the bedeken, in which the groom places the veil over his bride's face; encircling of the groom by the bride; recitation of a portion of Psalm 118 and a sermon by the officiant. Rejoicing continues during a festive meal. No weddings occur between Passover and Shavuot because they are days of mourning.
According to Jewish law, a couple is considered legally married, even after a civil divorce, until the wife obtains a get (religious divorce document) from the husband. Reform Judaism generally does not require a get, but Conservative and Orthodox Jews consider remarriage without a get to be adultery. Israeli law requires a get before remarriage. A Jewish divorce does not require establishment of fault. There must instead be mutual agreement to dissolution of the marriage and the written document (get) of dissolution handed to the wife.
The Jewish traditions related to death and mourning are intended to recognize death as a part of life. The traditions of preparing the body, sitting Shiva (a seven-day period of mourning immediately following a funeral), saying Kaddish (prayer for the dead), and observing Yahrzeit (anniversary of a death), all guide Jews through a difficult period. These familiar customs and rituals provide for mourning, grief and re-emphasizing the true nature of life. The body of the deceased is treated with respect, ritually washed, wrapped in a plain white shroud and placed in a plain pine coffin before burial. During Shiva, the departed is remembered with tears and reverence. Mourning is restricted to a maximum period of one year. The Kaddish prayer is said by the mourners for this period of time, on the anniversary of the death and at Yizkor services in the synagogue. A Yahrzeit candle is lit for the seven days of mourning as well as on the anniversary of the death and at Yizkor services (held on Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot).
Chanukat Habayit Dedicating a home
Within 30 days of moving into a new house or apartment, mezuzot must be put up. In Israel this is done immediately. A mezuzah is a small container that holds a handwritten scroll of parchment with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 on the front and the word Shaddai (Almighty), on the back. These verses remind the residents and visitors of the home of God as they pass through the door. A mezuzah is placed on every door except the bathroom, on the upper third of the doorpost, on the right side as one enters the room.
I have not performed Chanukat Habayit for quite some time. Though... I have tried to always have my elemental masks up within a year of moving into a place. My Pidyon Ha-Ben was done by my father paying 5 shekels to my great uncle Ben Conn (Kohen)