In Search of New Rituals

Posted on: November 25th, 2009 by Hayim Herring No Comments

I’m in search of new rituals. I’ve been asked to write an article on the development of new rituals, which is certainly a broad topic, and the most enriching way to do so is to tap into your knowledge. I don’t want to define what a new ritual is too tightly because I’d like you to think expansively and consider the range of innovation in rituals which we’ve witnessed over the past several decades. But, here are a few flexible guidelines to stimulate your thinking about this intriguing topic.

By new ritual, I’m thinking:

  • A ritual that hasn’t been practiced before (having a Jewish burial service for a pet)
  • An existing ritual that has been adapted to suit contemporary values or styles (brides and grooms encircling one another, instead of the classical practice of only the bride encircling a groom)
  • A ritual that has been practiced by a small segment of the community, but has grown in popularity either inside or outside of that community (mikveh/ritual immersion)
  • One that occurs with regularity, either in the synagogue, the home or a public venue (marking a child’s leaving home for college with a ritual in the synagogue)

I’m sure that there are other possible criteria, but again, these illustrations are to help jog your memory about new rituals which you are practicing, have observed or perhaps even created.

I’m also interested in learning about the origins of these rituals from you. For those who identify with a religious denomination, did they originate from within your denomination on the grassroots, regional or national level? Or did several synagogues within the denomination begin observing it and then the national structure helped to disseminate it? To what extent did wider social trends help to foster the ritual (feminism, inclusion of the GLBT community in Jewish life, eco-kosher)? How did you learn about these rituals?

Once I hear from you, I’ll compile a list of what I’ve learned and post it on Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear what you have to say and thank you in advance!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

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