The lights of Chanukah amid a pandemic elucidated the world entry for Lyla Rose Engelhard for an at-home socially distanced baby naming. Parents Chana and Blake Engelhard assembled a spiritual, heimishe and pretty in pink Dec. 15 event. The official naming took place at Congregation Beth Jacob with Rabbi Ilan Feldman as part of the Toco Hills community.
New dad Blake addressed the adoring family group at home by explaining the multilayered derivation of Lyla Rose’s Hebrew name Lyla Yehudit. He began by explaining how he and Chana first learned Torah together around the theme of receiving the Torah and in understanding nightfall. (Lyla means night in Hebrew.)
“In the secular calendar, first there is day, then came the night. After receiving the Torah, we switched, like Shabbat, where the holiday begins the night before. The Jews flipped it! Night has the potential of youth bringing the light just around the corner in the morning versus the secular vision of day representing youth as we age into the night.
“This aligns with Chanukah, based in darkness, where Jews brought light. Being in the shadow of the corona virus’ darkness and difficulty, we have the opportunity to look optimistically and bond over that. A baby born during corona and Chanukah, [the] essence of darkness, ties us together.”
He went on to explain how the middle name Rose is obviously a fragrant bloom but connected to multiple generations on both sides of the family with the name Rose and Rosa. Further, he added, Yehudit was the Chanukah heroine in selecting the name. “I had a wonderful matriarch Judy (Yehudit) who was always pleasant, making jokes and blowing kisses – even in dark times, always making the best of the situation.”
Preparing for the event, family members swept in to help. One major surprise was the arrival of paternal great-grandmother “Grammy,” who flew in from Weston, Fla., while grandfather FaceTimed from home.
The food and decorations came together very quickly in under 24 hours by Blake’s mother Suzy Engelhard and her close friends. The kosher cake was from Ali’s Cookies. Pink pearl luster letter balloons were from Party City.
Chana, who is from Bergenfield, N.J., met Blake at a Shabbat dinner in Manhattan. She is a personal stylist and wardrobe organizer, usually for adults. She took time out of her company and clients to style her fashionable little daughter in designer clothing from Montreal. Lyla’s “full-bloomed fabric” headband was a gift from her Aunt Miriam.
Fast forward, Blake beams that Lyla has dimples and sleeps for longer stretches. “She is now reacting to us and able to focus on our faces and different objects. She started reactionary smiles this weekend, and it was very exciting. She is very precious.”
Blake is in marketing/business development for Goodr, an app that requests unused food pickup and delivery from hotels, restaurants, airports and the like for extra food that would normally be discarded. He is a graduate of Riverwood High and The Wharton School.
His Smith/Harris family roots extend from Ocilla, Ga., home of special relatives Martha Jo Katz and Raye Coplin. Blake explains that his biological father Lee Harris died very young, and Blake was lovingly adopted by Hadley Engelhard. “I remember raising my right hand at age 7 to legally become his son,” he said.
Mom Chana summarized the birth of their new daughter. “Having Lyla was a miraculous experience. The baby naming felt ceremonial in a time where our only opportunity for ceremony is in our small pods. It felt hugely significant having our child enter into our wonderful family surrounded by family members and knowing all of the great people she comes from and bringing her into our beautiful tradition.”