Revisioning Ritual

BookRevisioning Ritual

Revisioning Ritual

Jewish Traditions in Transition

Jewish Cultural Studies, v. 3


September 30th, 2011

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Often overlooked as routine or even dismissed as odd customs, ritual in its many guises demands attention as a central strategy for embodying experience. Like other groups, Jews rely on ritual to provide an inventory of social meanings and a context for negotiating the challenges of everyday life. Ritual for Jews has historically carried special meanings for conveying what is Jewish about Jewishness. It is not enough, however, simply to document customs: for a full understanding of ritual and its meaning for participants we need to analyse how ritual expressions such as liturgies, holidays, life-cycle events - even political rallies - change in response to developments in the wider society, or are adapted to meet new needs. The innovative studies of adapted, invented, and evolving rituals presented in this volume, that include the Tunisian Jewish celebration of Se'udat Yitro, liturgical prayers for Israel Independence Day, shiva observance in an old-age home, transplanted Ethiopian Jewish wedding events, and same-sex marriage rituals. thus interpret the Jewish enactment of ritual and uses of tradition in everyday life against the background of modernity and community. It is the complexities of ritual - the dynamics of negotiating the religious and the secular, the traditional and the modern, the social and the political, performance and practice - that form the core of the book. Together, the contributors show ritual action to be key to the maintenance of Jewish identity and to the expression of a distinctive world-view.

Author Information

Simon J. Bronner is Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore and Founding Director of the Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. He is also the convener of the Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Section of the American Folklore Society. His books include Folklore: The Basics (2017) and Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture (2011).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Dedication Page3
Tital Page4
Copyright Page5
Note on Transliteration12
Introduction: Ritualizing Jewishness14
Part I: The Ritual Year56
Chapter 1: The Riddle of Se’udat Yitro: Interpreting a Celebration among Tunisia’s Jews58
Chapter 2: Ritual and History: The Order of Prayers for Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atsma’ut)81
Chapter 3: The Masquerade of Ideas: The Purimshpil as Theatre of Conflict107
Chapter 4: Be Worthy of Your Heritage: Jews and Tradition at Two New England Boarding Schools146
Part II: Revisioning Weddings and Marriage176
Chapter 5: Engendering Halakhah: Rachel Adler’s Berit Ahuvim and the Quest to Create a Feminist Halakhic Praxis178
Chapter 6: Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies in a Time of Coalescence203
Chapter 7: The Power of Discourse: Negotiating Modernity and Tradition in the Jewish Wedding224
Chapter 8: Tradition in Intercultural Transition: Marriage Rituals in Ethiopa and Israel247
Part III: Revisioning Mourning and Death276
Chapter 9: Kaddish for Angels: Revisioning Funerary Rituals and Cemeteries in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Warsaw278
Chapter 10: Rituals of Mourning among Central Asia’s Bukharan Jews: Remembering the Past and Addressing the Present303
Chapter 11: Shiva as Creative Ritual in an Institutional Home330
Part IV: Ritual Performance352
Chapter 12: Are You Just What You Eat? Ritual Slaughter and the Politics of National Identity354
Chapter 13: The Bureaucratization of Ritual Innovation: The Festive Cycle of the American Soviet Jewry Movement373
Chapter 14: New Israeli Rituals: Inventing a Folk Dance Tradition405