The proud parents, Rabbi Moshe Shapiro of Chabad of Hoboken, and his wife Shaindel, hosted family from as far away as London, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Brooklyn for the "bris milah" (or ritual circumcision) of their son Yosef.
The 4,000-year-old rite of passage is conducted on the eighth day of a boy's life to symbolize his transcendence into the metaphysical world from the physical.
"The reason that a bris takes place on the eighth day is because that is the first opportunity health-wise," said the child's maternal grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Lew, last week. "Before a person has developed their mind and critical faculties, they are bound to God. The rest of one's life is spent trying to validate, to develop and internalize that attachment in one's daily life."
The ritual, considered sacred by most Jews throughout the world, has its roots in scripture (Genesis 17). It is believed that God spoke to Abraham and made a covenant with him in which he circumcised his son Isaac eight days after his birth.
The ritual is then reiterated in the book of Leviticus during the time of Moses some 500 years later, "And on the eighth day he shall have his foreskin circumcised."
It is a great honor to be part of the ceremony, which involves the child being carried to the Bris room by his godmother or kvatterin, in this case, the child's aunt. The godmother then hands the child to his godfather or kvatter, who carries the baby from the godmother to the bris area. The godfather then places the child upon the throne of Elijah, the prophet. From the throne, the godfather then takes the child to the lap of the sandak, the person who holds the baby during the circumcision. This is considered the greatest honor at a bris.
The religious circumcision is performed by a mohel (the rabbi who performs the circumcision).
Once the circumcision began last week, the child's cries could be heard for about 10 minutes. This was a relatively short time period of discomfort considering the area physically affected during the ceremony.
The godfather then took the child from the lap of the sandak and gave him to yet another standing sandak who held the baby while blessings and prayers were recited and the child received his Hebrew name.
Indeed, the bris also is the occasion upon which the child is named for the first time. 'Yosef' was named in the Ashkenasic European tradition after a dead relative, in this case, the very first relative of the clan to set foot on U.S. shores.
"I am very happy and proud that the child was named after my father," said Jute Shapiro, the newborn's great-grandmother.
"The significance of the bris is that we have an excuse to come out and get together," said Rabbi Pinny Lew, brother of Sheindla, one of a family of 15 and the child's uncle. "It also gives us a chance to get together with the community at large."
"To us, it's very special," said Aunt Chana Lipsker from Pennsylvania. "It's an occasion to see each other, and for my children, it's important to see their cousins. In a way, a bris seems very insignificant compared to a wedding or a bat mitzvah, but it's a very joyous occasion."
While the bris is a beautiful tradition firmly rooted in the Jewish faith, it is not practiced by all Jews. To many, it is merely a question of health.
"Though it's beautiful to get the family together in that fashion, I would prefer to have my son circumcised at a hospital," said one non-orthodox Jew from Fort Lee who was attending.
The bris ended with a prayer circle of 10 men who chanted and said prayers of validation. The attending rebbe (rabbis) danced together in a circular motion and chanted as the last of the guests exited the Marine View Plaza hall.
"For so many important people to take time out in the middle of the week for this demonstrates the importance of this religious ceremony to them, and I am deeply honored," concluded Rabbi Moshe Shapiro.