“We Need to Worship Outside of Conventional Boundaries”: Jewish Orthodox Women Negotiating Time, Space and Halachic Hegemony Through New Ritual

This article focuses on the experiences, practices and perceptions of the women who participate in the amen meal ritual. The primary goal is to determine what we might learn from them about the mechanisms and social processes in contemporary Israeli religious communities. The amen meal is practiced by a broad spectrum of Jewish women in communities from the Ultra-Orthodox to the secular. It has a ritualistic- religious intention of maximizing the number of blessings recited by the participants and thereby the number of “amens” responded. I conducted a qualitative-ethnographic-feminist study using in-depth interviews and participant observations. The central insight is that the amen meal ritual quietly undermines the gender regime. The practices and perceptions of the participants toward amen meals enable us to reach a new understanding of the terms “time” and “space” in the Jewish halachic hegemony. These relatively new rituals reconstruct these heretofore clearly defined hierarchic terms, transforming them into un-defined and non-hierarchic ones. Moreover, the participants’ very perceptive critiques of rabbinic/halachic attitudes indicate that they also perturb the underpinnings of the fundamental Orthodox rules of male halachic hegemony throughout their daily practice.