"On Your New Moons": The Feminist Transformation of the Jewish New Moon Festival (1)

By Feldman, Ron H. | Journal of Women and Religion, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

"On Your New Moons": The Feminist Transformation of the Jewish New Moon Festival (1)


Feldman, Ron H., Journal of Women and Religion


Introduction

Over the last 30 years the Jewish new moon festival known as Rosh Hodesh, (2) the observance marking the beginning of the new month of the Jewish luni-solar calendar, has been reappropriated by Jewish women who have transformed it into a celebration of women within Judaism. The observance involves a gathering that is usually restricted to women and takes place at a private home or a synagogue on the evening of Rosh Hodesh. (3) While the exact activities of the gathering vary, they tend to include prayers, blessings, rituals, study, food, and socializing related to the month and the annual holidays that will fall in it. Freedom to innovate and experiment within Jewish tradition is a key element of these activities, although the amount will vary depending on where each group's denomination falls on the Jewish religious spectrum (from Orthodox to Secular, with Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Renewal in between).

While Susannah Heschel's 1983 groundbreaking collection of essays, On Being a Jewish Feminist, included a few essays touching on Rosh Hodesh, the first book devoted to the revival of Rosh Hodesh was Miriam's Well: Rituals for Jewish Women Around the Year published by Penina Adelman in 1986. A subsequent collection of essays published by Susan Berrin in 1996, Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology, provided more perspectives on both the history and practice of the holiday. The newfound significance of Rosh Hodesh is reflected, for example, by its designation as a major section of Marcia Falk's feminist liturgy published in 1996, The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival some of which has been set to music. (4) The observance of Rosh Hodesh has become sufficiently important and mainstream that the 1999 theme for the annual "Feast of Jewish Learning" week sponsored by the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in San Francisco had the theme, "Rosh Hodesh: It's About Time." The BJE created a web-site and multimedia packet of educational materials which was sent to Jewish institutions throughout the Bay Area to increase awareness and observance of the holiday, including suggestions for family activities. (5) Even Hadassah, one of the oldest and largest American Jewish women's organizations, has published its own compendium, Moonbeams: A Hadassah Rosh Hodesh Guide. (6)

In this paper, I briefly review some of the biblical and Talmudic textual sources for Rosh Hodesh, as well as later kabbalistic and contemporary Orthodox rituals. This lineage of observance is often thought of as "traditional" Judaism. I then discuss the feminist transformation of Rosh Hodesh, tracing how its proponents' claims to authenticity seek to affirm a continuity with traditional elements at the same time that they consciously change that tradition with the aim of making it responsive to their concerns. In particular, I discuss why what I will call the "feminist Rosh Hodesh" works as a focal point for the articulation of dual commitments to Judaism and feminism by many Jewish women. While the process of renegotiating cultural commitments as a minority group is familiar and similar to various adaptations of Jewish culture (7) into categories amenable to the modern world--such as religion, history, ethnicity, nationality--the direction of the change made by the feminist Rosh Hodesh toward postmodern, ecofeminist categories and values is a new and different development.

Part of this will include attention to the changing understanding of the relationship between humans, God, and nature. While it is well known that the Jewish holidays include both agricultural and mytho-historic elements, both of which are linked to God, these three elements exist together under tension, constantly subject to flux and change. Different eras have shifted the emphasis between these and reinterpreted them. Indeed, the multidimensional tension provides a rich source for cultural evolution and renewal. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"On Your New Moons": The Feminist Transformation of the Jewish New Moon Festival (1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.