Celebrations & Lifecycle

A congregational community accords the sacred privilege of participation in one another’s lives. We at Rodef Shalom have understood this for more than 150 years. We welcome new lives through birth. We celebrate marriage. We confront illness and loss. We do these things together, and knowing that we are not alone imbues our experiences with meaning.

Brit Milah/Brit Bat

You had a baby? Mazel Tov!

Welcoming a new member of the family is a profound experience. Rodef Shalom would be honored to welcome our child into your family, the Congregation’s family, and the family that is the Jewish faith. Tradition calls for us the circumcise our sons on the eighth day of life in a ritual called brit milah, the covenant of circumcision. During this ceremony, boys also take on their Hebrew names. Girls are welcomed, and given their Hebrew names, in a ceremony called brit bat, the covenant of the girl. This ritual can take place either in the home or during one of Rodef Shalom’s Shabbat services. Our rabbis are readily available to meet with you before or after your child is born in order to discuss the details of the appropriate ritual, which will welcome your child, honor your family and link us all in the chain of Jewish tradition. We’d also be glad to help you choose a Hebrew name!

At Rodef Shalom we honor the Reform movement’s position on Jewish identity: All children with at least one Jewish parent and who are raised and educated as Jews are considered to be fully Jewish.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

At 13, Jewish children come of age as Jews and automatically become Bar Mitzvah (“son of the commandment”) or Bat Mitzvah (“daughter of the commandment”). Over the years, the service in which a child demonstrates his or her newly acquired Hebrew skills has taken on the same name: Bar or Bat Mitzvah. At Rodef Shalom many families choose to celebrate their child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah with a service in which the child reads or chants the weekly Torah and Haftarah portions and delivers a d’var Torah, the lesson derived from that Torah reading.

At Rodef Shalom’s Religious School, students are gently introduced to Hebrew in Second Grade, with more formal language education beginning the subsequent year and continuing through Sixth Grade. Students meet with private tutors and work in concert with one of our rabbis on their Torah readings and d’vrei Torah. We heartily encourage children to work to their full potential and to participate in the service in ways that suit their skills and interests.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah program begins with a first meeting with Rabbi Aaron Bisno and continues with family education programs and the development of a personalized community service project. Not only are Bar or Bat Mitzvahs important milestones in Jewish education—as well as a family milestone; they are also a simcha for the entire Rodef Shalom Congregation!


Rodef Shalom has long celebrated Confirmation. In the early years of Reform, Confirmation was meant to replace Bar Mitzvah and to provide students a full Jewish education. In our time, confirmation services are held at the end of a student’s Tenth Grade year. Though the service is intended to reflect Rodef Shalom traditions, it also allows for the creative expression of each student. In preparation, the Tenth Grade year is spend studying the history and foundations of Reform Judaism as well as contemporary issues in the faith. A field trip is also part of the process in a year that culminates with a joyous Confirmation service—crafted in concert by the students and our rabbis—on Erev Shavuot.


Taking on a new religious identity is not a frivolous thing. In fact, it can be one of the most profound steps in a person’s life. Our rabbis invite those interested in Reform Judaism to enroll in the Introduction to Judaism class sponsored and taught by the Pittsburgh Reform rabbinate. This class, which meets Thursday evenings at Rodef Shalom, includes one-on-ne study with one of our rabbis, the opportunity to attend worship services, and instruction on the ways in which one can become involved in our community in concordance with one’s interests and skills. Choosing Judaism is a highly personal journey and not bound by a time frame, but when a student is ready to join the faith, he or she comes before a rabbinic bet din, is immersed in the mikvah, and, when appropriate, undergoes hatafat dam brit (“the covenant of the drop of blood,” or, symbolic ritual circumcision).


Mazel Tov! Engaged? Thinking about it? Entering into marriage can be exciting, but it can also be fraught with questions. To ease the process, and provide some answers, our rabbis would love to meet with you and talk about your future as a couple. We look forward to celebrating with you and we welcome all couples who crave connection with the Jewish community.


Sadly, some marriages end. Jewish tradition has long recognized and accepted this reality. Rodef Shalom’s rabbis are here to help you navigate this transition by lending a compassionate and non-judgmental ear. All communications are confidential. If you are interested in obtaining or giving a get, (the traditional Jewish divorce decree) we can direct you to the appropriate resources.

Illness & Hospitalization

Bikur cholim, visiting the sick, is an important Jewish tradition and, as such, is taken very seriously at Rodef Shalom. While our rabbis would like to visit you or a loved one who is ill, we respect your right to privacy. Contact our rabbinic office to report a hospitalization or illness and direct us in the most appropriate way to respond.

Grief & Mourning

End-of-life issues can provide seemingly insurmountable challenges. When a loved one dies, the sense of loss can overwhelm. Rodef Shalom invites you to find strength and comfort in our Jewish traditions. In concert with area funeral homes, we can provide you the resources you need and one of our rabbis would be honored to officiate funeral services or arrange for a shiva. Also remember that being at home, among loved ones and friends, can be a great comfort.

Planning an Event at Rodef Shalom

Whether you are looking for an intimate meeting space or a great banquet hall, the beautifully renovated facilities at Rodef Shalom offer the perfect place for just about any event. Our facilities are available to members for life-cycle events such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvah parties, birthday celebrations, brit milahs, baby namings, anniversaries, and other meaningful events. Affordable space in Rodef Shalom is also available to non-profit organizations for classes, meetings, and retreats and can accommodate lectures, seminars, concerts, luncheons, and dinners. Our staff can assist you in making your celebration exactly what you want it to be. We work with all party planners, caterers, and other service providers to ensure your event will be a success. To schedule a tour or find out more about holding an event at Rodef Shalom, contact Anna Dobkin Baird at (412) 621-6566 x183 or baird@rodefshalom.org.