Performing Gender and Political Recognition: Israeli Reform Jewish Life-cycle Rituals

Elazar Ben-Lulu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Anthropologists see life-cycle rituals as a significant way to understand gender roles and identities in religious communities. While in the past, these compulsory rituals involved a significant change in a person’s social status, today many of their traditional features have been transformed. This ethnographic inquiry examines Bat Mitzvah ceremonies (coming of age rituals for girls) in Israeli Reform Jewish congregations. By including new blessings, appropriating masculine religious symbols, and creating new bodily gestures, the feminine life-cycle ritual challenges the traditional Jewish laws and contemporary socio-cultural constructions of the Israeli Jewish community. The exclusion of the Israeli Reform community from mainstream Jewish religion turns this ritual into a subversive act that battles local Jewish Orthodoxy authority. The ceremony is a political performance, which positions the Reform congregations as an activist religious agent for gender equality in the Israeli public space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-230
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Bat Mitzvah
  • Israel
  • Israel
  • Reform Judaism
  • gender
  • life-cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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