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Ritual

Kim Chernin

After a moment’s thought, I know: I come from a Russian-Jewish, Marxist family that had set aside its practice of Judaism. I didn’t even realize until long after he was dead that my father, who was born to an Orthodox family, had been a bar mitzvah and as an adult still read Hebrew. I have had to discover Judaism on my own, educate myself, and learn what it means to be a Jewish woman who worships Shekhinah (the feminine presence of God). I am proud of this accomplishment. I am a Jewish writer. What more is there to say?

E.M. Broner

E.M. Broner, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, is the author of ten books, including The Women's Haggadah; Weave of Women; The Telling: The Story of a Group of Jewish Women Who Journey to Spirituality through Community and Ceremony; and Mornings and Mourning: A Kaddish Journal.

Esther Broner: A Weave of Women

Esther Broner, or E.M. as she was known, was a Jewish feminist, prolific author, professor, and pioneer of the feminist  movement. Known for re-imagining traditional Jewish customs and rituals, she co-wrote The Women’s Haggadah, which encouraged women to devise their own version of traditional rituals.

Dagbladet, Dawkins, Intactivists & How Demonizing Choice Makes Militancy

This intimidating cartoon really got to me, a moderate believer who made what I thought was a minor sacrifice to tribal loyalty—twice—over 20 years ago when I chose the traditional ceremony for my newborn sons. Of course I did not like causing my babies pain, but I had seen the ceremony several times and knew that it did not last long at all, and having just gone through childbirth, I knew pain was part of life.

A Woman's Place is at Prayer

Nearly 20 years ago I was living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a haven for observant Conservative Jews. I had my choice of multiple minyanim to attend; even the crowded weekend city streets had an air of the Sabbath, and kosher food abounded.

There were so many Conservative and egalitarian options that I rarely ventured into the neighborhood’s Orthodox community, and I certainly never attended an Orthodox synagogue.

Taking Risks, Making Change: Bat Mitzvah and Other Evolving Traditions

Today, the Bat Mitzvah may seem like a routine aspect of a young girl's Jewish life. But less than 100 years ago, no public ceremony existed to mark a girl's coming of age, and over the past century, what a "Bat Mitzvah" looks like has continually shifted. This Go & Learn guide uses the letters from one girl's campaign to have the first Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah in her congregation as a case study for exploring how we confront controversial issues and make change in our communities.

Tefillin Barbie: Considering Gender and Ritual Garb

Do women in your community wear tefillin and tallit when they pray? Do you? For many, the relationship between gender and ritual garb is still evolving, as Jews consider their personal and communal associations with these objects and practices. This Go & Learn guide uses the provocative image of "Tefillin Barbie"—created in 2006 by soferet (ritual scribe) Jen Taylor Friedman—to explore issues of gender, ritual, and body image.

Henrietta Szold on Saying Kaddish

Jewish tradition is filled with rituals that help us mark moments of joy and pain, and through which we can honor family members and the values they have passed on to us. Among these are powerful practices around death—such as saying Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for mourners) and sitting shiva. Traditionally, women did not recite the Kaddish or participate in the minyan (prayer quorum) at shiva. In 1916, in an early example of what would be many challenges by women to the restrictions on their participation in Jewish ritual, Henrietta Szold (the founder of Hadassah) defied Jewish tradition and asserted her right to say Kaddish. In the letter featured in this edition of "Go & Learn," Szold politely declines the offer of a male family friend to say Kaddish for her mother and sets out her reasons for reciting it herself.

Wrestling with God and Jewish Tradition

The biblical figure of Jacob is also called Israel, the one who wrestled with God (Genesis 35:10). As the "Children of Israel," the Jewish community has carried on this legacy of wrestling with God and tradition in our attempts to create meaning in our lives. This Go & Learn guide uses the artwork of the Jewish feminist artist Helène Aylon to explore how we—as individuals and as a community—grapple with ideas about God and Jewish tradition.

The Power of the Bat Mitzvah

When I was brought on board at the Lev LaLev Fund in May 2011, I was asked if I could run the bat mitzvah project program. I thought, sure, how hard could it be? I was once a bat mitzvah girl too after all. Yet, a year later, as I was writing about the 15th anniversary of my own bat mitzvah in my e-newsletter to the bat mitzvah girls, I finally realized just how much had changed in that short amount of time.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ritual." (Viewed on October 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/ritual>.

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