Women of Valor


Finding Rituals

Barbara Myerhoff, 1935 - 1985

In this transcript from an outake of In Her Own Time, Myerhoff discusses illness and ritual with the film's director, Lynne Littman:

MYERHOFF: "I must say, I don't know how to explain it,...[but] this whole illness is taking on—well, not only spiritual but I have to say specifically Jewish implications because what's turning out to be the case is that the Jewish world—and I mean the intensely Jewish world, not the usual secular circles that I move in- have more resources...

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Myerhoff Discusses the Spirituality and Community she has Encountered in her Work with the Hasidic Jews

"[They] have rituals, they have ceremonies, they have knowledge, they have things to do that other people do not in the cases of illness or emergency of a crisis like this. And that's been a revelation to me, I must say....And even something that seems to you possibly as commonplace as mikvah...finding a religious ritual that is a purification, that also happens to be mine, I mean, as an anthropologist I can tell you, well, they do this all over the world, every religion has some sort of immersion in the water that makes you new. But the fact is...I also have it available to me as a Jew....Not just in relation to menstruation but also in relation to purification. That's really very important for me to know about. And I think for a lot of other Jews to know about.

LITTMAN: "I think you've given a new slant, a new revelation, so maybe someone else will pick up on it."

  1. Barbara Myerhoff, In Her Own Time field notes, Barbara Myerhoff Papers microfilm, U of Southern California, reel 6.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Barbara Myerhoff - Finding Rituals." (Viewed on April 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/myerhoff/finding-rituals>.