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Vanessa L. Ochs
Vanessa L. Ochs is the author of "Inventing Jewish Ritual" (JPS), winner of a 2007 National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include "Sarah Laughed, The Jewish Dream Book" (with Elizabeth Ochs), "The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices" (edited with Irwin Kula), "Words on Fire: One Woman’s Journey into the Sacred" and "Safe and Sound: Protecting Your Child In An Unpredictable World." For her writing, she was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ochs is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in Judaism, anthropology of religion and spiritual writing.

Ochs earned her B.A. in Drama and French from Tufts University, an M.F.A. in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College, and Ph.D. in Anthropology of Religion from Drew University. In 2012, she was ordained as a rabbi by Beit Cochma.

Entries by Vanessa L. Ochs

Abrahamic Feminisms

(0) Comments | Posted February 3, 2016 | 5:29 PM

I've just begun to teach a new graduate seminar called "Abrahamic Feminisms" at the University of Virginia this semester. It focuses upon the efforts of Christian, Jewish and Muslim feminists who have investigated the status of women and pressed for equality in all areas of religion. Since feminism's second wave,...

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Women Are Denied the Right to Read From a Torah Scroll at the Western Wall

(0) Comments | Posted December 7, 2015 | 9:29 AM

A group of Original Women of the Wall went to the Kotel to pray this morning in celebration of Hanukkah and the first time women prayed as a group together at Kotel 27 years ago. Reports Cheryl Birkner Mack:

...three of us went to the men's side. I asked...

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Women Fight for Spiritual Rights in Israel

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 10:12 AM

Imagine US Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elana Kagan going together, along with eight other Jewish women, to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Say they wished to have a women's prayer service to mark a special event, like a bat mitzvah or upcoming wedding of a family member;...

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Prisoners of Conscience: Jewish Women in the Holy Land

(1) Comments | Posted March 14, 2014 | 2:26 PM

Any day now, bells may ring out in Jerusalem. Possibly Natan Sharansky himself will announce that the Israeli government has agreed to the plan he proposed for a newly conceived pluralist prayer space in Jerusalem's Old City, as have the Reform and Conservative movements. Signing on as well will be...

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Are You Really Ready to Give Up the Kotel?

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2013 | 2:02 PM

I suspect that many people are not aware that leaders of Judaism's Conservative and Reform movements, as well as Jewish Federations, are agreeing to allow the State of Israel, in a plan brokered by Natan Sharansky, to make it forbidden for women to pray as a group at the Kotel....

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Rabbis, Rabbis' Rabbis and Who Knows What Next?

(3) Comments | Posted April 29, 2013 | 1:31 PM

On Parshat Emor in the Book of Leviticus

Once upon a biblical time, as the narrative in Emor tells us there was a particular kind of Jewish leader called the kohen hagadol, the big or great priest. Ostensibly, he was not a "high" priest: He used but frankincense, myrrh, saffron,...

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Free Range Rabbi

(2) Comments | Posted February 21, 2013 | 12:07 PM

In the weeks before I was ordained as a rabbi, my husband Peter asked: "What will you say when people ask you what kind of a rabbi you are?"

What did he mean what kind? What was I supposed to say?

So I told him: "A rabbi who...

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For the Sin I Have Committed Before You by Praying as a Jew at the Western Wall

(105) Comments | Posted September 7, 2012 | 2:47 PM

The new moon of the month of Av this past July was my first time praying in Jerusalem with the Women of the Wall. It was a quiet time, compared to the month before, when two women were detained for wearing prayer shawls. Then, on the New Moon...

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