by Claire E. Sufrin

Rethinking New Rituals

From Brooklyn’s Hasidim to gay Jewish weddings

In Inventing Jewish Ritual (JPS, $25.00), anthropologist Vanessa Ochs turns her eye to contemporary Jewish communities. She brings a much-needed set of critical tools to the analysis of Jewish ritual and, in particular, to the innovative practices that have sprung up across the American Jewish landscape over the past few decades. Examining phenomena ranging from students hosting a women’s seder at the University of Virginia (where Ochs is professor of Jewish Studies), to a rabbi hanging a mezuzah in his car, to couples marrying under huppot handcrafted by friends, Ochs not only legitimizes recent ritual innovation but also gives the layperson the terminology to describe and understand how rituals develop and why so many find them meaningful.

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