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Transforming rituals : contemporary Jewish women's seders

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Transforming rituals : contemporary Jewish women's seders

Zylberberg, Sonia (2006) Transforming rituals : contemporary Jewish women's seders. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The women's seder, a new Jewish ritual, was created in the 1970s by and for Jewish feminists. Consciously constructed, it transformed the traditional Passover seder to focus specifically on women and the issues they faced. The feminist atmosphere in which it originated encouraged experimentation, resulting in rituals that reflected and increased female spiritual empowerment. Since that time, the women's seder has evolved to become an annual ritual event for many Jewish women, some of whom are feminist but many of whom are not. The ritual resonates with practitioners' hybrid identities, with what I have termed 'belonging-sense'. It provides the opportunity for Jewish women to ritualize together as full active participants and ritual experts. In order to properly investigate the ritual, I used an inter-disciplinary methodology and developed a concept and term, 'belonging-sense', which links rituals, ritualizers, and identity. I then used these tools to examine how a ritualizer's personal sense of belonging effects and affects transformation, making possible the continuation of tradition. The thesis also traces the development of the women's seder along with its Jewish and feminist roots. It portrays a number of particular rites, and formulates a description of a generic women's seder. It explores the development of two new ritual objects, the orange on the seder plate and Miriam's Cup, and discusses new and modified texts, or haggadahs. From questionnaires and interviews, I was also able to compile information on the characteristics and attitudes of many ritualizers, and to describe a generic participant. A common priority for most of my respondents was that the ritual combine innovation with tradition, and that it enrich and increase their ritual world, not diminish it. They loved the new ritual for its own sake but did not want to lose the old one. The women's seder has also begun to have its own transforming effect on many regular seders, as participants have brought changes home with them; this study examines some of these sites of transformation and contributes to an understanding of how limits of change are established: when a change can be incorporated and when it is just too extreme.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religion
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Zylberberg, Sonia
Pagination:vi, 260 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Religion
Date:2006
Thesis Supervisor(s):Joseph, Norma
ID Code:8952
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:18 Aug 2011 14:40
Last Modified:18 Aug 2011 14:40
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