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Ritual

Following in Miriam's Path

At every Passover Seder, there are the traditional items on the table: the Seder plate, a place for Elijah, and that gnawing hunger before finally feasting. On my table there is another item that makes a quiet appearance every year. A Kiddush cup, the same one my family uses for Shabbat, is given a new name for Pesach. The Kos Miriyam, or Miriam’s Cup, has its own part of our Seder rituals. After a certain number of parody songs about the holiday, and some acting out of the plagues—aided by ketchup (blood) and sunglasses (darkness)—the Kos Miriyam finally gets its turn. Passing the cup around, we listen as my mother tells us about Miriam’s well and the divine healing power held by the water. This water brought the Jewish nation from a place of physical and emotional slavery to a free, spiritual, lively community. She explains that as Jews and as individuals we are still on journeys to a better place.

There are times in our own lives when we try to reach a land of milk and honey, but often there are roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours along the way. We can take on these challenges single-handedly, but if we do, we are more likely to work ourselves into the ground, unable to continue moving forward. Instead, we can choose to reach out to the women surrounding us for assistance. With their help, we can overcome obstacles and continue on our individual journeys. The women in our lives provide support to each of us, as Miriam supported the Israelites on their grueling journey to the Holy Land.

Ruth Fredman Cernea

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Dr. Ruth Fredman Cernea, cultural anthropologist.
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Contributor: Submitter
Benson, Stephen

Dr. Ruth Fredman Cernea, cultural anthropologist.

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Olivia Link's Bat Mitzvah

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Olivia Link reading Torah.

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Creative Commons (attribution non-commercial share alike)

Olivia Link reading Torah.

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Rachel Cowan

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Rachel Cowan, Rabbi and leader in Jewish healing.
Courtesy of Rachel Cowan and the Waters of Eden, San Diego Community Mikvah and Education Center
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JWA use only on jwa.org

Rachel Cowan, Rabbi and leader in Jewish healing.

Courtesy of Rachel Cowan and the Waters of Eden, San Diego Community Mikvah and Education Center

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Cecillia Etkin

Cecillia Pollock Etkin’s faith in Judaism delivered her from seven concentration camps during the Holocaust and in 1950 to the Seattle Orthodox Jewish community where she lovingly served as the “mikveh lady” for 27 years, from 1970-1997. Born in Sighet, Romania in 1922, Cecillia was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 where her parents and many siblings were murdered. In 1945 Cecillia emigrated to New York City, married Seattle native Nathan Etkin, and moved to Seattle with him where she ran her own dressmaking business and raised four children. As Seattle’s first volunteer “mikveh lady” she prepared the ritual bath according to Orthodox Jewish law, and counseled brides and married women, converts, the sick and the elderly, who sought her quiet spiritual guidance.

Tillie Israel De Leon

An independent, intelligent, and industrious woman, Tillie De Leon is the matriarch of the original Peha family in Seattle, Sephardic immigrants from the Greek Island of Rhodes. One of the first Sephardic children born in Seattle, Tillie’s ground-breaking life continued when she left her close-knit community and moved to Los Angeles to take an accounting job. Married and widowed in Los Angeles, Tillie married Albert De Leon and returned with him to Seattle. Ever hardworking and optimistic, Tillie continued her paid work until age 80, and remains active in volunteer activities.

Sally Gottesman's Letter to Temple Shomrei Emunah

Sally Gottesman reading the letter she wrote in 1974 to the ritual committee of Temple Shomrei Emunah, requesting a Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah. View transcript.
Credit: Courtesy of Sally Gottesman
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JWA use only on jwa.org

Sally Gottesman reading the letter she wrote in 1974 to the ritual committee of Temple Shomrei Emunah, requesting a Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah. View transcript.
Credit: Courtesy of Sally Gottesman

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Hannah Elbaum, May 1, 2010

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Hannah Elbaum becoming a bat mitzvah, May 1, 2010.
Courtesy of Hannah Elbaum.

Hannah Elbaum becoming a bat mitzvah, May 1, 2010.

Courtesy of Hannah Elbaum.

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Feminism: More Than Just a Lens to View the World

Somewhere towards the end of my freshman year of high school, I became the class feminist. You know, the girl who always has to speak up about slut-shaming and rape culture and “where are the women in this narrative?”

I had begun to read feminist blogs, and the critical gender lens they used on everything from history, to clothing, to everything in between rapidly became part of my worldview. Right as I was hitting my stride as “that angry feminist,” I studied in the Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program at Drisha in New York. In addition to being a feminist, I was (and remain) a lover of Talmud. Spending the summer with other girls who took Judaism and Jewish text study seriously was a formative experience for me.

The erudite feminist women who taught us became my role models. (It was not unusual for us “Drishettes” to enthusiastically exclaim to one another that “I want to be insert-name-of-teacher-here when I grow up!” after a particularly great class.)

Avigayil Halpern Davening

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Avigayil Halpern davening.

Avigayil Halpern davening.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ritual." (Viewed on February 10, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/ritual>.

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