A bill that allows parents with religious concerns 15 days to submit a name for a newborn child was signed into law Monday by Governor Chris Christie. The legislation makes it significantly easier for families who wish to wait until after their son’s bris milah to register their baby’s name.
New Jersey law dictated that a child must be named within the first five days after birth. If parents did not give a name by then, the first name on the birth certificate is recorded simply as “Baby” appended to the family’s last name, e.g., “Baby Schwartz.” In order to register the name eventually given, both parents had to return to the hospital where the child was born, then take name-change forms to a local municipal office and pay a fee to make the given name official.
“It was a big inconvenience, especially for parents with a newborn,” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of the Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey division.
A few months ago, Rabbi Schnall was contacted by a father who, not wanting to give a name before making a bris, had dealt with the state’s name-changing process. Rabbi Schnall contacted State Senator Robert Singer, whose district includes Lakewood, about introducing a bill that would allow for religious accommodation. It was sponsored in the Assembly by Sean Kean, David Rible, and Nancy Pinkin, and passed both houses easily.
“This is an important consideration for the Orthodox Jewish community,” said Mr. Kean. “Many parents, following their religious teachings, wish to wait until the bris to name newborn males. The consideration provided by this sensible adjustment to the statute allows for a reasonable delay for religious parents before filing a birth certificate. It is a sensible courtesy without a downside and, as such, a bit of a rarity in Trenton. I am pleased to share this welcome news with our friends in the Jewish community.”
Now, parents can take birth certificate papers home with them and will have 15 days to submit their child’s name, the first time, without any additional fees or name changes.
“We are very grateful to Governor Christie and the sponsors of the bill for acknowledging the sensitivities within our community and for easing the burden on new parents,” said Rabbi Schnall.