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Ritual

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.

Accessing our Jewess Tools: Judaism’s Ancient Feminist Spiritual Tactics

How does the American Jewish woman navigate our male-dominated society in the twenty-first century? Jewish women have thousands of years of history to draw from to help make sense of and find our place. According to our ancestral Jewish tradition, women’s empowerment is central to bringing redemption for all humanity -- so let’s get to it!

A Woman Taught Me to Lay Tefillin

The event was called a “Jewish BLT: Bagel, Lox and Tefillin.” I stood there holding the newly purchased and never used tefillin in my hand as I unfolded the instructions ready to tackle this ancien

Strength in Fragility

With the summer’s end, my hands will no longer be gritty from tucking tangled roots into the soil, from weeding out invaders and doling out compost.

Leaving In Order To Return

Though still in the month of Elul, we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We are leaving 5772 behind and will soon enter 5773.

Rebecca Lubetkin's 60th Bat Mitz-versary

“It’s funny how practices that seem way out in one generation become so commonplace in another that people wonder what took so long.

My "out of this world" bat mitzvah

My bat mitzvah party theme was outer space. Each of the tables were named after the nine planets in the solar system at the time: Mercury, Venus, Mars.

Learning and teaching bat mitzvah: It goes both ways

“But there’s so much to learn!” This is the traditional lament of every bat mitzvah girl I have tutored, and I’m sure it escaped my lips a few times when I was preparing for my own bat mitzvah as well. Between the prayers, the Torah portion, the Haftarah, the d’var Torah, and everything else a bat mitzvah entails, there is no doubt that in becoming a bat mitzvah there is quite a lot to learn. But I would like to offer an alternative framework: the bat mitzvah girl not as a learner, but as a teacher.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ritual." (Viewed on August 29, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/ritual>.

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