There are as many ideas about Jewish baby showers as there are pregnant Jewish women. However, many Jewish mothers will put off having a baby shower until after the baby is born. There is no religious taboo against baby showers before birth. But superstition warns against celebrating anything beforehand for fear of calling bad luck. Before you plan any shower for a Jewish mother, be sure to talk about her desires. In many cases, you will be planning a shower after the baby is born.
Obviously, how you phrase the invitations depends largely on whether you are having a shower before or after the birth of the baby. If you are having a shower before the birth of the baby, it is customary to wish the mother “B’shaah tovah.” This expresses the hope that the baby will come at the right time. “Mazel tov” is reserved for after the birth of the child to wish congratulations and blessing.
It goes without saying that you should include the time, place and any gift registry the parents may be using. For celebrations after the baby is born, be sure to include the particulars of the child. You will want to include the gender, the date of the child’s birth and the name the parents have chosen. You may also want to include weight and length of the newborn. Not only do inquiring minds want to know, but it will also make it easier to buy the correct size clothing.
While you are printing out the invitations, don’t forget to print out matching thank you notes. That way you can go ahead and address the thank you note envelopes when you are addressing the invitations. Then set the notes aside with a pad of sticky notes. During the shower, record the gift and stick it to a thank you card and place it in the appropriate envelope. This makes writing the thank you notes super easy and time efficient for the mom-to-be.
You have many options available for decorating, depending on the mother’s desire. You can go with traditional “baby shower” decorations that range from elegant to kitschy. You can also order balloons that use the Hebrew alphabet to spell out a welcome to the new baby that includes their name in Hebrew.
You can also decorate with sayings written in either Arabic or Hebrew letters that welcome the new baby to their faith community from the Torah. Consider B'rukhah ha-ba'ah b'shem Adonay which translates to “Blessed is she who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Tehillim 108:25) Or B'rukhah at l'Adonay, biti which means “Blessed are you of God my daughter. (Ruth 3:10) For a boy or a girl, consider Hazak u-yarukh which means Be strong and blessed.
If you are planning a meal, talk to the mother. In many cases, unless you have a Kosher kitchen, it is probably a good idea to have the event catered by a Kosher vendor. Jewish dietary laws are very specific. They cover not only food that is forbidden, but also food combinations that are forbidden. It applies to food, dishes, and preparation utensils. If you don’t have a Kosher vendor, then consider sticking with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as prepared foods that are marked Kosher. Foods that have a small symbol such as a “K” in a circle or a “U” in a circle have been checked and are Kosher certified foods. This may include cheese, crackers or sweet treats.
Many of the predictive games traditionally played at baby showers just don’t work when the baby is lying right there in front of you. But there are still plenty of fun games to play.
For this game you will need numbered sheets of paper, an assortment of baby foods and a large number of wooden pop sticks. Choose Kosher baby foods (if you are unsure then check for the Kosher symbols.) Also, if you want to make it tricky, look for combinations of food such as chicken and pears or peas and potatoes in addition to simple, single food jars. Before the party, remove the labels of the food and give each jar of food a number. Be sure that you know which number goes with each jar of food. At the party, pass out the numbered sheets of paper, so that guests can record their guesses. Give each guest enough pop sticks to try each of the foods. As you pass around the jars of food, encourage each guest to stick a fresh pop stick into the jar and taste each food. The guest that guesses the most correctly wins a small prize.
Since you may have the baby right in front of you, why not let your guests show off their artistic talents, with a twist. Before the party, gather a stack of three by five cards and some small washable markers. It’s also a good idea to also have some waterless hand cleaner and cosmetic wipes on hand, just in case.
At the party, put the baby in a swing or seat and tell the group that they are going to draw him. Hand out the three by five cards and the marker. Each guest must then place the card on their forehead and draw the baby on the card. Obviously, they can’t see the card or the drawing, so they are drawing blind. When they finish, ask them to write their names on the back. The mother then becomes the judge and choose the picture that looks most like her baby.
Because this shower takes place after the baby is born, it’s easier to choose gifts the parents still need. Encourage guests to give clothing that is six-month size or larger to ensure that the parents will actually be able to use them. You can also look at gifts that will encourage the child’s faith such as an Aleph play mat, a plush menorah or a baby Mezuzah.