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Readings for a Feminist Bat Mitzvah

The following discussion of readings appropriate for a feminist bat mitzvah
(a ceremony celebrating a Jewish girl's coming of age) took place on WMST-L in
November 2005.  For additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 23:21:14 -0500
From: Gail Dines <gdines AT WHEELOCK.EDU>
Subject: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
My niece is having her Bat Mitzvah which is complicated given her
parents are "modern" orthodox Jews. This means that she cannot read
from the Torah as this "mitzvah" is for boys only in orthodox
Jewry. They have agreed to her reading something that has a feminist
Jewish content about this coming of age ritual, and I have been given
the job of finding material. Has anyone got any suggestions of stories
and/or poems that I can send them? Thanks

Gail Dines

Gail Dines
Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies
Chair of American Studies
Wheelock College
35 Pilgrim Road
Boston, MA 02215
gdines  AT  wheelock.edu
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 06:46:36 -0500
From: Hagolem <hagolem AT C4.NET>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
In a similar context, I have been informed of people using various poems 
from my THE ART OF BLESSING THE DAY: poems with a Jewish Theme published by 
Knopf and now in paperback.

marge piercy
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 21:03:23 +0530
From: Naomi Graetz <graetz AT BGUMAIL.BGU.AC.IL>
Subject: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
Gail: I highly recommend MY collection of biblical tales, S/He Created
them: Feminist Retellings of Biblical Stories, see my signature
below. There is also a great collection of retellings in Penina
Adelman, (ed) Praise her works: Conversations with Biblical Women
(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2005)and in Vanessa Ochs,
Sarah Laughed (McGraw Hill, 2004). There is also Jill Hammer, Sisters
at Sinai (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2001) and Ellen
Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam (Harper San Francisco, 1996)which
are a bit more sophisticated, but certainly worthwhile. BTW: there are
many Orthodox women who participate in Women's Prayer groups and in
these venues young women can participate actively as they prepare for
their bat mitzvah. It probably is too late, but there is an
organization called the Women's Tefilla Network and I'm sure that a
search on google will help you or them find the group closest to
them--if they really want her to do more.

Naomi Graetz
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
graetz  AT  bgumail.bgu.ac.il
Author of 
The Rabbi's Wife Plays at Murder (Shiluv Press, 2004) 
Orders: graetz  AT  bgumail.bgu.ac.il
Unlocking the Garden: A Feminist Jewish Look at the Bible, Midrash and God (Gorgias Press, 2005)
Online orders: www.gorgiaspress.com
S/He Created Them: Feminist Retellings of Biblical Tales (Gorgias Press, 2003)
Online orders: www.gorgiaspress.com
Silence is Deadly:Judaism Confronts Wifebeating (Jason Aronson, 1998) 
Online Orders   http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com/
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 10:54:02 -0500
From: Rudy Leon <leonre AT POTSDAM.EDU>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
There was a (multivolume?) book that came out 5 or more years ago on 
Jewish feminist rituals and blessings, that I cannot immediately lay my 
memory on... However, in searching for it, I found these titles which 
look helpful There's a whole lot more out there, though!

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance hosts a site, which includes a 
page on bat mitzvahs http://www.jofa.org/social.php/life/batmitzvah
The article *"On the Bat Mitzvah Celebration: An Annotated 
Bibliography,"* Nussbaum, Esther. _Ten Da`at _, 1989.

*Synopsis:* Nussbaum compiles various sources and literature about 
celebtrating the occasion of the Bat Mitzvah.  (available in pdf on the 
site) looks particualry useful. AS do many of the books listed. The 
items on this site appear to work within orthodoxy, which may be 
particualry appropriate to your challenge.

From: http://www.shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/rl/gen-women.html
Broner, E. M. /Bringing Home the Light: A Jewish Woman's Handbook of 
Rituals/. Council Oak Distribution; 1999. Hardcover. ISBN 1-571780-84-X

Fishman, Sylvia Barack. /A Breath of Life: Feminism in the American 
Jewish Community (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, 
and Life)/. Maxwell Macmillan International, c1993. Brandeis Univ; 1995. 
Paperback. Reprint edition. ISBN 0-874517-06-0. [The challenge of being 
Feminist and Jewish in America. Touches on all sorts of issues (Ritual, 
Marriage, etc.)]

Levine, Elizabeth R. /A Ceremonies Sampler/. Womans Inst Cont Jewish 
Educ; 1991. Paperback. ISBN 0-960805-49-4.

Orenstein, Debra (ed). /Lifecycles V. 1: Jewish Women on Life Passages 
and Personal Milestones. /Jewish Lights Pub; 1994. Hardcover. ISBN 
1-879045-14-1. [Non-Orthodox point of view].

Rudy Leon
Collection Development & Instruction Librarian
College Libraries                
SUNY Potsdam                  email:  leonre  AT  potsdam.edu
44 Pierrepont Avenue          
Potsdam, NY 13676-2294          
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 14:09:36 -0500
From: Heike Schotten <Heike.Schotten AT UMB.EDU>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
suggestion from a colleague:

I have seen poems by Judy Chicago that I really loved, but I don't have
any collections of her poetry (or other artwork around).

I found this on the web for the Jewish Women's Archive:

Both the "Themes" and "Collection" buttons from that site looked like
they might have some promising information.

heike.schotten  AT  umb.edu
C. Heike Schotten
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Massachusetts-Boston
Boston, MA 02125
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 19:56:22 -0800
From: Rabbi Alana Suskin <alanamscat AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
WEll, if you really want to impress, have her read the
very short sugiya ( section of talmud) from tractate
Pesachim, page 62b. To be impressive, she can read it
in the Aramaic first.

Rabbi Simlai came before Rabbi Yochanan [and]
requested of him: Let the Master teach me the Book of
Genealogies. Said he to him, Whence are you? ^+ He
replied, From Lod. And where is your dwelling? In
Nehardea. Said he to him, We do not discuss it either
with the Lodians or with the Nehardeans, and how much
more so with you, who are from Lod and live in
Nehardea! But he urged him, and he consented, Let us
learn it in three months, he proposed. [Thereupon] he
took a clod and threw it at him, saying, If Beruriah,
wife of Rabbi Meir [and] daughter of Rabbi Hanina
benTeradion, who studied three hundred laws from three
hundred teachers in [one] day, could nevertheless not
do her duty in three years, yet you propose [to do it]
in three months!

Alana Suskin
alanamscat  AT  yahoo.com
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 14:31:52 -0500
From: Kathy Labadorf <kathy.labadorf AT UCONN.EDU>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
A Jewish/Fine Arts scholar here recommends the following Organizations
which have materials on the Web:



Best of luck on your search.


Kathleen Labadorf
Undergraduate Services/Reference Librarian
Liaison Librarian, Women's Studies
kathy.labadorf  AT  uconn.edu

"When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird." -- James
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 13:59:52 -0600
From: Betsey Brada <bbbrada AT UCHICAGO.EDU>
Subject: Re: Feminist Readings for a Bat Mitzvah
a friend suggests:

The Tribe of Dinah anthology has lots of feminist Jewish 
poems and essays. Some will be too political for a Bat 
Mitzvah, but some might work.

Also, there's the Five Books of Miriam, which retells each 
parshah from the female voices of the Torah. It's perfectly 
acceptable for a girl to give a d'var torah, even though she 
cannot read from it, in a Modern Orthodox ceremony (at least 
the ones I have been to). So, she could look into that and 
give a talk about the very subject matter of the week's 
portion but from a feminist perspective, and then segue into 
her own thoughts and feelings on being a Bat Mitzvah and 
entering into adulthood as a woman and a Jew. 

Betsey Behr Brada
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Chicago
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
email: bbbrada  AT  uchicago.edu

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