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April 25, 2003 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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"Women weren't running services,
but they were leaders of communi-
ties," she says. "But women have to
nurture that tradition because it has-
n't been developed much in the past
few centuries."

New Rituals, Old Ideas

The results of this recent nurturing
are ceremonies that are free and
loose, for young and old women, in
and outside of the synagogue and
with no set model, Myers says.
A ceremony might include a
potluck, lighting candles, Torah
readings, rituals with singing and
prayers and projects drawing from
old and new ideas.
Popular Rosh Chodesh gatherings
for women today, for example, origi-
nated in ancient times, Myers says.
"It was a woman's holiday, given to
women as a reward for their piety."
Not all these ceremonies are for
women only. Just as family and
friends gather for a boy's brit milah
(ritual circumcision), new rituals
bring people together to honor new-
born girls in baby-naming cere-
monies or to mark lifecycle events.
Orthodox professor Norma
Baumel Joseph of the religion
department at Concordia University
in Montreal emphasizes that the
many changes in the Orthodox
world are not all a result of femi-
nism.
But a most important factor of
change, she says, "is the incredible
growth of learning, of Jewish women
studying Jewish texts and of Jewish
institutions."
She notes the increased participa-
tion of women in ritual practices —
from prayers to rituals that focus on
women's lifecycle celebrations. More
women say Kaddish, Joseph says. In
Israel, she adds, women have rabbi-
like functions, and women are being
certified by the chief rabbinate as
experts in special spheres of Jewish
knowledge.
But as another conference partici-
pant, Shuly Rubin Schwartz, who
studies women of Conservative
Judaism, writes, "The (Conservative)
movement opened the door to egali-
tarianism in the 1970-1980s.
However, this marked the beginning,
not the end, of the search for true
and lasting equality.
"Women still fill only a small per-
centage of top leadership positions,
and recruiting the best women into
the rabbinate remains a challenge,"
says Schwartz, professor of American

Jewish History at the Jewish
Theological Seminary.
She sees important future chal-
lenges like how the movement will
reconcile its commitment to
Halachah (Jewish law) with its
-ambivalent attitude toward women's
obligations in such mitzvot as tallit
and tefillin.
'Attention to these challenges will
help to consolidate the gains of the
past while moving toward a more
vital future," she writes.
The conference's keynoter, anthro-
pologist Riv-Ellen Prell, will discuss
"American Jewish Women: A Social
and Cultural Vanguard," 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 4, at Congregation
Shaarey Zedek-B'nai Israel Center,
West Bloomfield. Prell, a professor at
the Center for Jewish Studies at the
University of Minnesota in
Minneapolis, is sponsored by the
annual Pearl A. and George M.
Zeltzer lecture on Women and
Judaism.
Conference sessions are co-spon-
sored with the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America-Great Lakes
Region and the Women's Studies and
newly created Religious Studies
Programs at WSU. Funding is also
provided by the Chaim, Fanny,
Louis, Benjamin and Anne Florence
Kaufman Trust. ❑

The Conference on the
Changing Role of Women in
American Jewish Religious Life, 9
a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday, May 5,
at McGregor Memorial
Conference Center, WSU in
Detroit. $50, includes lunch. For
information, call Cohn-Haddow
Center: (313) 577-2679.

Woman's World
Hosts Merchants

Congregation Shaarey Zedek's
Sisterhood's annual fund-raiser,
Woman's World, will be Wednesday,
May 7.
The day-long event will focus on
Israeli vendors and will feature an
luncheon fashion show.
Tickets, which include a continental
breakfast, luncheon and fashion show,
begin at $45. For information call
Karen Katz, (248) 357-5544.

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or email: alterman@jfmd.org

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