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.
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).
Note on Transliteration Introduction: Ritualizing Jewishness SIMON J. BRONNER PART I THE RITUAL YEAR 1 The Riddle of Se'udat Yitro (Jethro's Feast): Interpreting a Celebration among Tunisia's Jews HARVEY E. GOLDBERG and HAGAR SALAMON 2 Ritual and History: The Order of Prayers for Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha'atsma'ut) SETH WARD 3 The Masquerade of Ideas: The Purimshpil as Theatre of Conflict JEAN R. FREEDMAN 4 Be Worthy of Your Heritage: Jews and Tradition at Two New England Boarding Schools MICHAEL HOBERMAN PART II REVISIONING WEDDINGS AND MARRIAGE 5 Engendering Halakhah: Rachel Adler's Berit Ahuvim and the Quest to Create a Feminist Halakhic Praxis GAIL LABOVITZ 6 Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies in a Time of Coalescence VANESSA L. OCHS 7 The Power of Discourse: Orthodox Women in Israel Negotiating Modernity and Tradition in the Jewish Wedding IRIT KOREN 8 Tradition in Intercultural Transition: Marriage Rituals in Ethiopia and Israel RACHEL SHARABY PART III REVISIONING MOURNING AND DEATH 9 Kaddish for Angels: Revisioning Funerary Rituals and Cemeteries in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Warsaw AGNIESZKA JAGODZINSKA 10 Rituals of Mourning among Central Asia's Bukharan Jews: Remembering the Past and Addressing the Present ALANNA E. COOPER 11 Shiva as Creative Ritual in an Institutional Home JILLIAN GOULD PART IV RITUAL PERFORMANCE 12 Are You Just What You Eat? Ritual Slaughter and the Politics of National Identity SANDER L. GILMAN 13 Social Movements and the Bureaucratization of Ritual Innovation: The Ritual Cycle of the American Mobilization for Soviet Jewry SHAUL KELNER 14 New Israeli Rituals: Inventing a Folk Dance Tradition NINA S. SPIEGEL Notes on Contributors Index