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Challenge and ConformityThe Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women$
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Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941718

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941718.001.0001

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Contested Prayers and Powerful Blessings: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Community

Contested Prayers and Powerful Blessings: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Community

(p.123) Four Contested Prayers and Powerful Blessings: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Community
Challenge and Conformity

Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz

Liverpool University Press

This chapter deals with unofficial communal activity. A wide range of informal communal activities provides women with opportunities for religious or spiritual self-expression and for creating ritual contexts that function as substitutes for the communal rituals closed to them. It is here that they show most creativity and originality, often adapting or even inventing rituals. In Israel, the related practice of women praying in the standard synagogue service but then conducting a separate women-only Torah reading has taken root in several places. Until recently, the only regular prayer service for women in London was in Stanmore under the auspices of Stanmore and Canons Park United Synagogue. Many women feel that these services constitute the high point of their religious lives, offering an opportunity for quiet reflection and participation. This also allowed women the opportunity to learn more about the service and individual prayers, the sense of active participation. Recently, a new trend has emerged within the British Orthodox community. Small groups of highly educated professionals in their thirties and forties from the Modern Orthodox sector of the community, have begun to hold services known as partnership minyanim, in which women lead non-obligatory parts of the service, as well as reading the Torah and haftarah and being called up to recite the Torah blessings. Women also give sermons at these services, and recite Kaddish if they are mourners. Consideration of these non-official communal rituals provides further support for the threefold division of Orthodox women into haredi, Modern Orthodox, and traditionalist groups.

Keywords:   unofficial communal activity, Jewish ritual, Jewish communal rituals, spiritual self-expression, Jewish women, Jewish rituals, British Orthodox community, partnership minyamin, Orthodox women

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