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Inventing Jewish Ritual

By Vanessa L. Ochs (author), Riv-Ellen Prell (foreword)

Inventing Jewish Ritual named the 2007 National Jewish Book Award Winner in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.

Access the downloadable Leaders' Guide to Inventing Jewish Ritual [PDF 520KB]

Read an interview with Vanessa Ochs from Nextbook

Read an article about new Jewish ritual from The Jerusalem Post

Listen to a radio interview with Vanessa Ochs about Torah Yoga

Read an article about Vanessa Ochs and her book from Faculty Awards & Research News

A celebration of innovation and creativity in Jewish ritual

"Inventing Jewish Ritual by Vanessa Ochs is a wonderful read, especially if one is an egalitarian Jew. Her passionate feminism comes through clearly, as does her pride in being Jewish. The two play together brilliantly."
- Edgar Bronfman

"Reading Inventing Jewish Ritual did precisely what any good ritual should enchanted, delighted, destabilized, anchored, challenged and charmed...a must read for anyone who wants to know how ritual works to make us wiser and more compassionate and wants to reimagine life as the most profound ritual of all."
- Rabbi Irwin Kula

“… explores how traditional communities can move beyond skepticism to turn invented rituals into sanctioned, even beloved, traditions.” – Nextbook

"...offers a clear, informative discussion of a dynamic process that will continue to change the face of American Judaism." - Publishers Weekly

Ochs is a gentle guide to the world of new Jewish ritual, both for newcomers to the concept and for those who are already immersed within it.” – Haaretz

“… a compelling case for creating new ritual in Jewish life – new ways to observe holidays and mark life-cycle events – while reminding that it is the doing that makes ritual come alive and the practice real.” – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

"Vanessa Ochs widens our vocabulary for Jewish ritual, sharpens our ability to interpret it, and multiplies what we count as the stages upon which Jewish life unfolds."
--Riv-Ellen Prell, from her foreword to Inventing Jewish Ritual

View a short video about this fascinating look at new Jewish traditions by author Vanessa Ochs[Quicktime, 2 min, 30 sec]

Read an interview with Vanessa Ochs in Religion and Ethics Week.

Read an article about Jewish ritual by Vanessa Ochs from the New Jersey Jewish News.

Read an article by Vanessa Ochs featured on

Vanessa Ochs invites her readers to explore how Jewish practice can be more meaningful through renewing, reshaping, and even creating new rituals, such as naming ceremonies for welcoming baby girls, healing services, Miriam's cup, mitzvah days, egalitarian wedding practices, and commitment ceremonies.

We think of rituals -- the patterned ways of doing things that have shared and often multiple meanings -- as being steeped in tradition and therefore unalterable. But rituals have always been reinvented. When we perform ancient rituals in a particular place and time they are no longer quite the same rituals they once were. Each is a debut, an innovation: this Sabbath meal, this Passover seder, this wedding -- firsts in their own unique ways.

In the last 30 years there has been a surge of interest in reinventing ritual, in what is called minhag America. Ochs describes the range and diversity of interest in this Jewish
American experience and examines how it reflects tradition as it revives Jewish culture and faith. And she shows us how to create our own ritual objects, sacred spaces, ceremonies, and liturgies that can be paths to greater personal connection with history and with holiness: baby-naming ceremonies for girls, divorce rituals, Shabbat practices, homemade haggadahs, ritual baths, healing services.

Through these and more, we see that American Judaism is a dynamic cultural process very much open to change and a source of great personal and communal meaning.

The ceramic "Tree of Life" spice container that appears on the cover of Inventing Jewish Ritual is by Susan Garson of Garson and Pakele Studios,

About Vanessa L. Ochs

Vanessa Ochs is the Isa and Nathan Kolodiz Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Virginia and the 2007 National Jewish Book Award winning author of Inventing Jewish Ritual. Her speech topics include “Inventing Jewish Traditions,” “Jewish Feminism,” “Jewish Spiritual Journeys,” and “Jewish Weddings.”

Willing to Travel, Honorarium Negotiable