The Jewish Culture and Sex Abuse -Part 2 by Marcia Cohn Spiegel

I will begin by looking at how we as Jews address God. Many of us who have suffered abuse and betrayal by father, husband, rabbi, teacher, or another trusted man in our life can no longer pray using the traditional Jewish blessing formula, “Lord, God, King of the Universe.”

Never Wanted Broken -By Leonard Patton

Marcia Picture

Part 2- Marcia describes methods we are using to survive, to recover, to heal ourselves, and to find a place in Judaism that does not require us to separate into parts: woman, Jew, survivor.

Some of us, however, decided to change Judaism to include us and our life experiences. We would do the work of repairing the world, Tikkun Olam.i We began to band together to change existing religious institutions and community organizations; we created new organizations to reach out to others who have been abused; we created support networks; we told our stories to force the world to hear our voices. Our own healing is strengthened and our lives made whole as we reach out to others.

In 1987, when Evelyn Torton Beck and I conducted a workshop on sexual abuse and domestic violence at a meeting attended by many Jewish women theologians, rabbis, philosophers, poets, and teachers, we were shocked that among the 23 women participating, 19 reported stories of abuse in their childhood. Since then I have found that whenever I lecture or facilitate workshops, leaders in the Jewish-feminist-spirituality movement tell me their stories of sexual abuse and physical violence. I am distressed by the stories, but I am no longer shocked. While I do not believe that everyone who is struggling to change the patriarchy has been physically or sexually abused, I do believe that many women engaged in the struggle to reshape Judaism have been abused.

I will describe some of the methods we are using to survive, to recover, to heal ourselves, and to find a place in Judaism that does not require us to separate into parts: woman, Jew, survivor. In order to survive, we are seeking the spiritual strength that allows us to go on, to learn to trust again, to believe in a God who will protect and nurture us. In my own recovery I had to reinvent God for myself, so that I could awaken each day with a sense of purpose and joy. Healing does not take place in a moment. Healing is a process which begins with naming the pain and deciding to grapple with it. One ritual act, whether traditional or newly created, or one piece of creative liturgy is not a panacea. Rather they are the first steps on a path of reentry to the Jewish community many of us had felt abandoned us in our time of need. By framing these rituals, liturgies, and images within Jewish tradition, we create a comfortable setting to introduce a Jewish, feminist, spiritual dimension to the process of recovery. Some of these practices will be familiar: women from many different religions are engaged in examining the same issues; others are uniquely Jewish. I believe that non-Jews can learn and adapt some of these new practices to their own belief systems. I believe that spiritual leaders can learn practices that can be adapted to their own belief systems to assist survivors of sexual abuse in finding healing and wholeness.

Speaking to God

I will begin by looking at how we as Jews address God. Many of us who have suffered abuse and betrayal by father, husband, rabbi, teacher, or another trusted man in our life can no longer pray using the traditional Jewish blessing formula, “Lord, God, King of the Universe.” We cannot find solace and comfort in an anthropomorphic God envisioned as father, judge, or ruler; even shepherd is no longer a benign image. No matter the belief system of a survivor of sexual abuse, the traditional masculine attributes of deity present a problem. We have difficulty praying to a transcendent God, who rules over the world and acts in history―where was He while we suffered? Why didn’t He take care of us? Why did He abandon us?ii We need a God of eminence; a nurturing, caring, protective deity who is present in our daily lives. We need a God we can trust who helps us to find peace.

ShekhinahSome contemporary Jewish woman seeking these qualities in God found them embodied in the ancient mystical concept of Shekhinah, the indwelling presence, the feminine aspect of deity. (In the Hebrew Bible, the name Shekhinah [from the verb “to dwell”] refers to the manifestation of God’s presence. While grammatically feminine, as there is no neuter in Hebrew, the biblical Shekhinah is not feminine in gender. By the middle ages, however, Jewish mystics began to describe Shekhinah as the feminine aspect of God.) This aspect has become central in many women’s prayers, rituals, and songs. “She” is a manifestation of deity capable of being perceived by the human senses. Many women in search of an image and language to use in prayer and ritual have found Her a source of nurturance and support. Women who are seeking symbols and models from traditional Judaism find her in Shekhinah. Women from other belief systems can also embrace the feminine aspect of God.

In my own search to find a “Higher Power,” I was alienated by the image of a bearded patriarch in the sky. I found my solace and strength in an unnamed force that surrounded me, protected me, and empowered me. When I heard Debbie Friedman sing “The Angels’ Blessing,” I came to recognize that force as Shekhinah:

May our right hand bring us closer to our Godliness,

May our left hand give us strength to face each day,

And before us may our visions light our paths ahead

And behind us may well-being heal our way.

All around us is Shekhinah.iii

Early attempts in Judaism to change masculine nouns and pronouns referring to God so they were feminine gender were rarely successful. They lost the internal rhythm of the traditional prayers, were jarring on the ear, and substituted a feminine hierarchical figure for the masculine. They did, however, pave the way for new metaphors and images. Marcia Lee Falk was one of the first Jewish women to explore traditional biblical and liturgical sources for non-anthropomorphic names and images of God that retain the power and beauty of language and metaphor in both Hebrew and English. In one of her new blessing formulas, we take on the power of blessing as we become partners with God in doing the work of blessing: “Let us bless the source of life . . . ” Her images, “the flow of life,” “the wellspring of life,” “the evergiving well” add a personalized dimension to prayer and God.iv

An imaginative solution was attempted by a Jewish women’s prayer group.v The prayer of repentance, “Our Father, Our King,” Avinu Malkenu, is a focal point of the High Holy Day liturgy. The frequent repetition of the names and images of God as Father and King, in Hebrew and in English, in a central prayer of the season of atonement is profoundly disturbing to abused women. The solution of this group was to retain the traditional melody of the prayer while introducing a variety of new names and images, including “Our Father, Our King,” but adding alternatives: “Mothering Spirit, Shekhinah, Merciful Parent, Infinite Wisdom, Indwelling Presence.” Singing new words to the ancient prayer was for many of those present a profoundly important and moving experience. Retaining the familiar melody grounded the prayer in tradition at the same time that the discomfiting text was altered. Rabbi Burt Jacobson of the Berkeley Kehilla adds other names: “Our Mother, our Teacher, our Guide, our Source, our Destiny, our Truth, our Way.

As we explore new languages, metaphors, and images, we should be aware of problems inherent in making these changes. If names and descriptions of God are related to the primary figures in our own life, no single alternative will work for everyone. Feminine God-language might be attractive to a woman who has been abused by her father, but may not meet the needs of someone who has been abused by her mother. Sons as well as daughters are abused; both women and men are abused; women as well as men are the perpetrators. While we are still suffering, any gendered references to God may be problematic. References to power, might, and even protection and caring may trigger strong feelings of abandonment and remind us of our betrayal.

As we move into recovery, will we be able to accept a broader vision of the nurturing, healing qualities in a masculine image, and the powerful, protective vision in feminine images? Will we find comfort in non-anthropomorphic descriptions such as “the source of life,” “the breath of all living things,” and the “unseen sparks.”vi Do we need to image God as Being in order to feel in relationship with God? Will we find the courage to begin to express our rage at a God by whom we felt betrayed, and rediscover our belief in a God who will not only protect us from harm, but empower us to protect ourselves?

Transforming Familiar Rituals

Religious rituals, rites, ceremonies, and even folk traditions play a role in Jewish family celebrations, life-cycle events, death, and mourning. Some are performed in the formal setting of the synagogue, others in the home. These rituals represent moments of transition: joy or sorrow, life or death. Using elements of worship that are part of traditional practice may give a new ritual the emotional resonance that makes it effective in healing and recovery. While the following discussion describes rituals for women, most can be adapted for use by men or boys who are on the road to recovery. Though the specific rituals are Jewish, they can be adapted for any belief-system of a survivor of sexual abuse to help the survivor find healing and hope.

One of the oldest religious rites is that of ritual immersion, mikveh, described in Leviticus 15. Ritual immersion was required to achieve a state of purity before entering the Temple in Jerusalem. It was performed by both men and women as a cleansing act after any bodily discharge. After the destruction of the Temple, these laws applied only to women, regulating the ongoing cycle of menstruation, contamination. and purification, known as “family purity.” Many contemporary women consider this an onerous and humiliating experience. For traditionally observant Jews, however, the laws of family purity are considered important in maintaining the sanctity of the Jewish home, and an enhancement of the spiritual life of the Jewish woman.

The act of immersion, with its powerful metaphor of purity as well as physical and spiritual rebirth, has become attractive to women who seek to perform rituals of cleansing and purification. The ceremonies in which I have participated took place in rivers, streams, hot tubs, and swimming pools made holy by the spirituality of the act. Women recovering from incest, childhood abuse, or wife battering immersed themselves, surrounded by friends who floated them, supported them, and circled them with love, and they emerged feeling cleansed and healed.vii Three immersions follow the traditional model with a new twist: during the first immersion, the woman is told to picture what she wants to leave behind. She should imagine it going out into the water, draining away, being purified as it washes into the sea. During the second immersion, she should think about the moment, savoring the water, the scents, the love of friends. Finally, in the third immersion, she should picture herself as she moves forward, strong, confidant, reborn.

The association of the purity of water and its healing powers occurs in the book of Exodus where we are told how Miriam saved her baby brother Moses by putting him into the river where he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Later folk tales connect Miriam to a miraculous well that provided water for the wanderers in the desert and which disappeared when she died. Today, Miriam’s name is used for a blessing over water. For many women who were abused or violated by an alcoholic or who struggle with their own alcoholism and addiction, the traditional blessing over wine, recited every Sabbath and on all festivals and holy days, is not an acknowledgment of God’s grace. The introduction by the feminist spirituality community of the cup of Miriam, Kos Miriam, which blesses water, or the water of life, Mayim Khayyim, provides an enriching source of blessing, including as it does metaphors of both purity and sustenance. A ceremony developed by a women’s group, Kol Isha, includes the following blessing:

This is the Cup of Miriam, the Cup of Living Waters. Strength, Strength

and may we be Strengthened. Let us Bless the Source of Life that gives

us living waters. . .viii

The story of Miriam and Moses and the salvation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt is told at the Passover Seder, probably the most widely observed Jewish ceremony. It is a time when families come together not only to tell the story of the Exodus and dine on a sumptuous meal, but also a time when family relationships, tensions, and expectations are heightened. Seders are held on the first two evenings of Passover. Four cups of wine, or grape juice, are drunk as part of the ritual. A special cup of wine for the prophet Elijah, who is expected to announce the coming of the Messiah, is one of the ritual symbols; some women are now adding KosMiriam, to symbolize women’s redemption. The name Egypt, in Hebrew, means “from the narrow place.” The image of the struggle to come through the narrow place to a place of freedom has resonance for many women, because it becomes a metaphor for birth.

The Seder has become an important event for the women’s community as a time to examine the role of women and, for women in recovery, it is a special time to create a ceremony to honor their healing journey. Many Jewish women have begun to celebrate a third Seder recounting the story of women’s bravery, courage, and struggle.ix Survivors of spousal abuse at the Los Angeles Family Violence Project of Jewish Family Service created such a service to validate their journey to freedom and a new life.

The celebration of the new moon, Rosh Hodesh, has been reclaimed as a woman’s celebration and is another appropriate time for ceremonies of healing and recovery from violence and abuse. Moon cycles have been associated with women in many different cultures. Now, all over the world, Jewish women, spanning the spectrum from secular to religious, gather on the eve of the new moon to perform rituals, to learn together, to share their feelings and the stories of their lives.x In Numbers (10:10, 28:11), the blowing of trumpets and special sacrifices are described for Rosh Hodesh. In later codes, we are told that women are not permitted to work on Rosh Hodesh. It was a time to wear new clothes, eat newly ripened fruit, and begin a new book. Folk tradition tells us that Rosh Hodesh was given to women as a reward for saving their jewelry for the creation of the ark rather than the casting of the golden calf. Because there is no historical model for this celebration, women can create their own rituals. Many groups read and discuss a biblical text about women, relate it to their own experience, and give it a new interpretation. The groups are often small, so that the intimate setting provides a safe environment where women who have been abused can feel safe telling their stories and gaining the support and acknowledgment that they need from other Jewish women. It has been my experience that once one woman tells her story, other women are able to share theirs. Groups are often amazed to learn how many members have been abused. Together the work of healing can begin.

Another ceremony that lends itself to rituals of healing and recovery is the ceremony that marks the close of the Sabbath, Havdalah. This is a short, simple ceremony which takes place on Saturday evening after the first three stars appear; it marks the transition from the holiness of the Sabbath to the week that is starting. Blessings are recited over braided candles, wine or grape juice, and spices. Songs are sung remembering the peace of the Sabbath day, and anticipating the arrival of the prophet Elijah. The sensory richness of the candle light, wine, spices and music, and the clear demarcation between the holy and profane allows multiple interpretations of the meaning of separation. Women have begun to use this rite to create a separation from the pain of abuse to a return to a state of wholeness and healing.

Creating New Rituals

In addition to ceremonies that reframe tradition, women are introducing new rituals which use familiar symbols, prayers, and music. I celebrated my sixtieth birthday with a such a ritual performed as a late Saturday afternoon worship service that ended with Havdalah. My friend, Savina Teubal, created this new celebration for her sixtieth birthday to mark her transition into aging, and to acknowledge the accumulated wisdom of the elders. She called it Simchat Hochmah, a celebration of wisdom.xi I adapted the Havdalah service as an appropriate transition from the turmoil following the deaths of my husband and parents. I wanted to mark my own recovery as I entered a new stage of life. I accepted the inevitability of aging, assumed full responsibility for my own life and its consequences, and let go of my anger and blame for the past. Preparing the service enabled me to focus on the lessons of my life, what I chose to retain and what I chose to release, remembering that life is part of an eternal cycle.xii

I combined familiar elements with new prayers and music, so that the service would be comfortable to the congregation. Using an ancient image of a tent of peace, sukkat shalom, my grandfather’s prayer shawl was wrapped around friends who were in need of healing for physical and mental pain, while Debbie Friedman sang her prayer of healing, Mi Shebeirach.

May the Source of strength

Who blessed the ones before us

Help us find the courage

To make our lives a blessing

And let us say, Amen. . . .

Bless all in need of healing with . . .

The renewal of body,

The renewal of spirit,

And let us say, Amen.xiii

Another way to mark a new stage of life is to change one’s name or add a new name. In Genesis we learn that when Abram made a covenant with God, his name was changed to Abraham, and his wife Sarai became Sarah. A new name can redefine us. Because our names were given by our parents with their expectations for us, and often carry resonance of other family members, names may be reminders of events and people from whom we want to disassociate ourselves. There is a power in naming ourselves.

At my service, I chose to take on the name of Miriam for ritual and ceremonial purposes. Those in the congregation who wanted to rename themselves stood under my grandmother’s hand-crocheted tablecloth held aloft by friends, just as a wedding canopy might be held. Together we recited a new blessing which had been written for Savina Teubal:

Let us sing the soul in every name,

and the names of every soul.xiv

I chose the biblical name Miriam, because of my own identification with the we have a story

prophetess’ bravery, courage, and her survival in the face of adversity.

Both Savina and I changed our garments during our services; we each donned a white garment, a kittel, normally given to men for their wedding, and worn after that for Passover and Yom Kippur services, and ultimately becoming their shrouds. I changed from the black of mourning to the white of hope, as I recognized the inevitability of death as part of life’s cycle. Each time I do this kittel, for rituals or celebrations, I am reminded of my own hopes for renewal and recovery. Savina and I each planted a tree, recognizing that we sow now for others to reap. We each made promises for our lives, our own covenant with God.xv My vow was to continue in the work of helping others move into recovery and heal their wounds. Each of these acts is a movement forward into life, away from pain and confusion, and into dignity and personal responsibility.

As a word of teaching, I told stories from my life. Storytelling has traditionally been a way for women to share with others the truth of our own lives. Through stories we can use the life of another woman to represent our own experiences. We can portray evil at its worst and heroism at its finest; we can express our sorrow and our outrage; through stories we can experience redemption, and even justice. This ancient custom has become part of the creation of new rituals for all women, a powerful tool for women recovering from abuse.

One exciting use of storytelling as ritual took place on the night of a midsummer full moon, Tu B’Av, (the fifteenth of the month of Av, which usually occurs in August). A group of women gathered out-of-doors to exchange white garments and retell two horror stories in the biblical book, Judges: the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter by her father, to fulfill his rash pledge to God, and the rape and murder of the unnamed concubine of Bethlehem followed by the kidnapping of the daughters of Shiloh. Under the bright light of the moon, we turned the stories around, adding women’s redemption and survival to these tales of murder, rape, and abuse. We sang and danced in exultation.xvi For most of our history, retelling and interpreting biblical stories was exclusively a male activity; now, women add their voices to give new meanings to old stories, and new understanding of traditional texts.

I have only described ceremonies in which I have participated. Many other new ceremonies are being developed as women seek a path to healing that utilizes ritual, is grounded in the past, and allows movement into the future. Each holiday, season, and celebration offers additional symbols and metaphors to be adapted and used for transforming our lives and healing us from abuse. Incorporated into a new ceremony, these symbols still resonate with tradition. There may be ceremonies of joy and celebration as well as others which allow us to act out our rage.

More than one ritual will probably be needed as a woman moves through her recovery. Different stages of recovery can be marked by different rituals. It is important to remember that what works for one woman may not be appropriate for another. A woman who is uncomfortable exposing her body to others will not find spiritual strength if she is forced to disrobe, even with her friends. A woman who has not been involved in ritual life may often find meaning in ceremonies that will have quite a negative response from a woman who comes from a traditional background. Sensitivity to each individual must be the guide. The celebrant should participate in the planning so the ritual will meet her current needs. As she moves forward in recovery, she will change and so must the rituals created for her.

No matter what one’s religion is, there are rituals which will lend themselves to new interpretations. Rituals of healing transcend traditional observance.

Repentance and Reconciliation

The Jewish season of the High Holy Days is a time of repentance and reconciliation. The month preceding the New Year is supposed to be spent doing the work of atonement, making amends to those whom we have wronged, and healing spiritual and emotional wounds. This solemn time culminates in the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The Kol Nidre prayer, recited on the eve of Yom Kippur, is one of the most solemn prayers in Hebrew liturgy. It is chanted three times as Jews ask forgiveness for their transgressions against God. Transgressions against another person can only be forgiven by that person. We can use this time of introspection to rewrite our life’s script. It is a time of cleansing, purification, and renewal. For all Jews it is a time of healing.

These holy days can be a particularly stressful time for survivors of abuse because of the focus on forgiveness. How does someone live with the painful memories of acts of cruelty that were perpetrated against them, acts that are truly unforgivable? Judaism does not teach us to automatically grant forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Rather it is the wrongdoer who must come forward to ask for forgiveness for their deeds. It is they who must repent.

Repentance, t’shuvah, means to turn―to turn away from evil, to turn toward good, return to God. In the twelfth century, Moses Maimonides described four steps of t’shuvah: acknowledging regret or remorse for one’s actions, renunciation of those actions, confession of the wrong and a plea for forgiveness, and finally a pledge to change one’s life so as not to repeat this act. The proof that one has done this work is that when confronted with the same scenario, one behaves differently. Those familiar with Twelve Step Programs will recognize these steps, first described almost nine hundred years ago.

The dilemma for the victim of abuse is how to relate to a perpetrator who does not admit to the evil, who does not take responsibility for his/her deeds. How does one heal, or feel complete, when someone whom you loved and trusted betrayed that trust and does not make any effort to bind up the wounds? How do you interact with your family when the perpetrator is safe and secure while you are forced to flee? How do you respond to a parent, grandparent, or other family member who acts as if nothing had happened to you, who may even blame you for being a reminder of a part of themselves that they would like to forget? Why does a daughter or son refuse to celebrate a holiday with the family, come home for a special dinner, attend a wedding or even a funeral? One friend of mine, after reminding her mother that she had not yet come to terms with her father’s acts of rape and incest, was told by her mother, “But that was so long ago. You should forget about it. Let bygones be bygones.” For someone who is still suffering from flashbacks and night terrors, struggling to recreate herself, “forgetting about it” is impossible. In addition to her pain, she feels the denial and abandonment of her family―another betrayal.

If the perpetrator of the violence or abuse is dead, the problem may be further complicated for the survivor. The yearly cycle of Jewish holidays contains many special moments to honor and remember the dead. A memorial service is part of the worship service on each of the four major holidays.xvii At this time we ask God to remember close family members who have died, and recite the traditional prayer for the dead, Kaddish. The Kaddish prayer, said with a quorum of ten people, is recited daily for thirty days following a death in the family. When a parent dies, it is recited daily for a year and later on the anniversary of the death as well as at the four memorial services. While it is a prayer that praises God in this world, most people only associate it with death.

How do victims of abuse memorialize a dead parent, spouse, or sibling who never acknowledged their behavior or asked forgiveness? How is that person eulogized by the community if their acts were known? If they were secret? Do we expect the victim to say Kaddish and attend memorial services? How can that time of memory be used to reconcile our feelings of loss, anger, and betrayal so we can move beyond them? Those of us who have not shared our story of abuse, will be reminded of the pain each time Kaddish is recited. If we continue to worship in our familiar synagogue, we will hear the perpetrator’s name read “in loving memory”; we will receive notices of the anniversary of the death every year, and sit in services where parents, spouses, children, and siblings are remembered for their loving, caring, nurturing presence on earth. The very act of putting up a headstone on the grave becomes a reminder of abuse. Because the Kaddish prayer is an acknowledgment of God’s power, it can be used as a time to reflect on personal healing with the aid of God, rather than remembering a perpetrator.

For some of us, the first step to healing may be an opportunity to express rage, anger, disappointment, loss, and betrayal. Most of us have been trained to keep these feelings to ourselves; expressing them is frightening both to us and to those around us. We fear that we will become uncontrollable. Society is quick to demand forgiveness for acts perpetrated against us, but does not allow us to express our feelings. Jewish ritual provides many opportunities for an individual to express remorse for the sins which he or she has committed, and for which he or she must atone. No such prayer or ceremony exists for expressing the feelings of a victim whose perpetrator does not acknowledge the wrong. It is possible that a formal ritual can provide us with an opportunity to express this anger in a safe, controlled setting. Keening and mourning rituals may be very useful; donning dark clothes, sitting on low stools, wailing and lamenting the lost inner child, releasing her spirit to allow it to grow and change might prove to be comforting. Other symbolic actions might involve breaking, tearing, crying, burning, casting out, and separation. Done with friends, in a safe environment, where we have a sense of control, it may be possible to act out our feelings. By performing these ritual acts we may be able to let go of the rage and move forward in recovery.

Conclusion

Following the Jewish model of repairing the world, we can begin by speaking out and telling the truth. We must acknowledge that we are not different from other people, and accept the reality that physical and sexual abuse happens in “nice families.” We can recognize that peace in the house is a goal toward which we strive, and not a measure of who we are. It is not the community’s shame if an individual fails. Rather it is the responsibility of the community to recognize the problems, reach out to the victims and encourage those who are suffering to seek help when they are in pain, and in need of healing, and to provide a safe environment for that healing to take place. Houses of worship and family-service agencies must begin to address the needs of those who are abused. We begin the work in our own community and join with others to make sure our voices are heard. We are doing healing in ceremonies, rituals, and new celebrations, in stories and in song, adapting old customs with new meanings, banding together to force political and institutional changes.

We seek wholeness, harmony, completion, shlemut.xviii With shlemut we can achieve personal integrity, joining together the fragments of our souls, our bodies, our psyches; we can reach out to family and to community. In Guide to the Perplexed, Maimonides sees this completion as being the result of our unity with God, which manifests itself in our behavior. Rabbi Nachman said that a human being reaches in three directions: inward to self, outward to other people, and upward to God. The secret, he says, is that the three are one. When we are connected to self, we can reach out to others. When we reach out to others, we may come to know God. Rabbi Tarfon tells us that we are not expected to finish the task, but neither are we free to evade it. And so we begin.xix

i Betsy Giller, “All in the Family: Violence in the Jewish Home,” in Jewish Women in Therapy, edited by Rachel Josefowitz Siegel and Ellen Cole. (New York: Harrington Park Press, 1991): 101-109; Mimi Scarf, Battered Jewish Wives. (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988).

ii David Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest. (Louisville: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1993)

iii © 1991 Deborah Lynn Friedman ASCAP, SoundsWrite Production, Inc. ASCAP.

iv Marcia Lee Falk, “Notes on Composing New Blessings: Toward a Feminist-Jewish Reconstruction of Prayer,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 3, (Spring 1987), and The Book of Blessings: A Feminist Jewish Reconstruction of Prayer. (Harper/San Francisco, 1996).

v Judith Glass, and Shoshana Gershenzon, Rosh Hashanah Service for Shabbat Shenit. (Los Angeles, Sept. 1992). unpublished.

vi Marcia Falk

vii A healing mikveh ritual for recovery from rape can be found in Laura Levitt and Sue Ann Wasserman, “Mikvah Ceremony for Laura (1989)” in Ellen Umansky and Dianne Ashton, Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992):321-326

A meditation for the mikveh is presented by Jane Litman, “Meditation for the Mikveh,” in Rabbi Debra Orenstein, Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones. (Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994):253-254.

viii Matia Angelou, “Kos Miriam: Development of a Women’s Ritual,” Neshama, (Summer, 1990):1-2. This blessing appears in an article by Peninah Adelman, “A Drink from Miriam’s Cup: Invention of Tradition among Jewish Women.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 10 no. 2): 151-166; 1991 Kol Isha, P.O. Box 132 Wayland, MA 01778. Contact Kol Isha in writing for permission to use.

ix While many such haggadot have been created, two which are commercially available are San Diego Women’s Haggadah. (San Diego: Woman’s Institute for Continuing Jewish Education, 1986). And We Were All There: A Feminist Passover Haggadah. (Los Angeles: American Jewish Congress Feminist Center, 1993). The American Jewish Congress Feminist Center closed its doors in 1999.

xPenina V. Adelman, Miriam’s Well: Rituals for Jewish Women Around the Year. (New York: Biblio Press, 1990.)

xiSavina J. Teubal, “Simchat Hochmah” in Ellen Umansky and Dianne Ashton, Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992):257-265.

xii I was guided in preparation of this service by Drorah O’Donnell Setel who helped me to plan the service and acted as facilitator, Debbie Friedman wrote several new songs for the occasion, and Marcia Falk led her newly created Havdalah service. Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell also helped to facilitate the service.

xiii Music by Deborah Lynn Friedman, ASCAP. Lyrics by Debbie Friedman and Drorah O’Donnell Setel. Sounds Write Productions, Inc. ASCAP, 1988

xivMarcia Lee Falk, 1987.

xv Irene Fine, Mid-life, A Rite of Passage and The Woman, A Celebration. (San Diego: Woman’s Institute for Continuing Jewish Education, 1988).

xvi Jane Litman, “Women’s Folk Judaism,’ Lilith. (Fall 1991):6.

xvii Anne Brener, Mourning and Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing. (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993):217.

xviii From the root of the word for peace, shalom.

xix I want to thank the women of my spiritual communities for their encouragement, daring, and creativity. Shabbat Shenit, B’not Esh, and the Mikveh ladies have tried new ways to pray, new rituals, and new celebrations. Much of what I describe in this chapter was first performed in one of these groups.