Coins for a Newborn
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Coins for a Newborn

22 days after his bris, James Johnson celebrated a Pidyon Haben ceremony with his 102-year-old great grandmother on hand.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

  • Newborn James Lev Johnson // Photo Credit: SRD Photography
    Newborn James Lev Johnson // Photo Credit: SRD Photography
  • Baby James met his great grandmother Nana Johnson, who is 102 years old. Alana(left) and Arik(right).
    Baby James met his great grandmother Nana Johnson, who is 102 years old. Alana(left) and Arik(right).
  • The traditional Pidyon Haben blessing was performed.
    The traditional Pidyon Haben blessing was performed.
  • Silver coins are used to redeem baby James.
    Silver coins are used to redeem baby James.
  • Table Décor was by Yes Events.
    Table Décor was by Yes Events.
  • The healthy watermelon cake was a conversation piece.
    The healthy watermelon cake was a conversation piece.
  • Outdoor setting for guests to enjoy the beautiful weather.
    Outdoor setting for guests to enjoy the beautiful weather.
  • Zest Catering is known for its elaborate sushi presentation.
    Zest Catering is known for its elaborate sushi presentation.

After his bris on the traditional eighth day, newborn James Lev Johnson waited another 22 days for the ancient Jewish Pidyon Haben ceremony: redemption of the first born.

Mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, it is performed only on first born male children, not delivered by Cesarean; and the father’s descent has to be from the priestly family of Aaron, “Kohen.”

Baby James met his great grandmother Nana Johnson, who is 102 years old. Alana(left) and Arik(right).

The ceremony is rare as there are other conditions: no previous miscarriage and no Levite heritage, among others. The redemption is attained by paying five silver coins (shekels in ancient times) to a Kohen on behalf of the first born.

Clad in white, baby James received welcoming words from his mother Alana: “As we create our community in Atlanta, surrounded by family and friends, we only hope the love, positivity and strength from tonight will continue to guide James throughout his life.  Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate our baby James. We are overflowing with gratitude and love to be surrounded by family and friends as we continue to welcome our baby boy into the Jewish community.”

James Lev Johnson was named after dad Arik’s father, James Whitney Johnson, with the name Chaim Lev after Arik’s father’s Hebrew name Chaim.

The traditional Pidyon Haben blessing was performed.

Arik explained the meaning of the baby’s name.

“We chose the [middle] name Lev because it means “heart.” Alana and I have both been blessed with the fortune to have families filled with love…a family with a strong heartbeat that has permeated from generation to generation. Lev is to always remind our son of the generations that came before him and the strong fabric and foundation for our incredible families.”

Silver coins are used to redeem baby James.

Since this is such a special event, the Pidyon Haben custom is to serve food items that can be taken home and used as ingredients in other food, in order to continue to spread the blessing through the subsequent food that is cooked in each guests’ own home and, in essence, to their family and friends.

Honey sticks were on the tables for guests to take home. The honey symbolized sweetness, happiness and the hope of good things to come, and were especially fitting with Rosh Hashanah so close, for a sweet and happy new year. At other Pidyon Haben ceremonies, garlic cloves and cubes of sugar are taken home to use for cooking and extending the mitzvah.

Table Décor was by Yes Events.

A very special family member was James’ 102-year-old great grandmother, Irma “Nana” Johnson. Arik’s mother, Resa Johnson, and Alana’s parents, Michael and Shari Weiner, were also on hand. Rabbi Yosef Shapiro helped prepare the couple for this special event.

The healthy watermelon cake was a conversation piece.

Aunt Tara Kornblum, of Bluming Creativity, had a sentimental and practical role as the event planner for her new baby nephew, James.

She said, “It is always exciting to plan events for family. This was my first Pidyon Haben and needed to be planned in 30 days. It was important to me that it be special for Alana and Arik (my youngest brother) and ‘fit their vibe’. I reached out to colleagues and friends, Balloonacy, YES Event Designs, SRD Photo and Zest Catering to help create a special evening; and they ‘knocked it out of the park’. I am grateful to work with such incredible people and to have my family in Atlanta.”

James continues to score high marks for his calmness and sleep habits.

Alana exclaimed, “He is a great baby – very sweet!”

And so may it be.

Outdoor setting for guests to enjoy the beautiful weather.

Tara’s chosen bill of fare:

Taco Station
Fried Grouper Taco topped with chopped tomatoes, lettuce and srirachia aioli
Honey Lime Salmon tossed with crunchy slaw and chili lime aioli
Veggie Taco – caramelized onion, red pepper, portabello mushroom and avocado
Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Salsa
Tri Colored Chips
Tomato Avocado Corn Salad

Sushi Station
Nigri Salmon, Nigri Tuna
Spicy Tuna Roll, Salmon Roll with avocado, tuna and cucumber
Rainbow Roll
Hand rolls – veggie
Edamame Potstickers and Veggie Spring Rolls
Soy, Ginger and Wasabi

Zest Catering is known for its elaborate sushi presentation.

Desserts
Watermelon Cake – Garnished with fresh berries and mint
Slices of key lime pie
Edible Chocolate Cups filled with Chocolate Mousse
Ice Cream and Gelato Cones
Lime Popsicles with Prosecco

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