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Priestly Caste

There’s a growing movement of women who practice their Judaism through feminist, earth-based rituals

By Jeremy Gillick

This month, 12 students were initiated into a class of women studying to become kohanot, or Hebrew priestesses, at a retreat center in rural Connecticut. The ordination process they’ll go through—loosely modeled on the threefold anointing of priests described in Leviticus and invoking the Shekhinah—came to Holly Shere, a folklorist, in a “dream vision” that she shared with Rabbi Jill Hammer, her co-director at Kohenet, the Hebrew Priestess Institute, which was founded in 2006.

Kohenet is part of a growing, grassroots Jewish movement to reclaim the divine feminine—female aspects of God represented in Jewish texts—and reintroduce earth-based traditions to Jewish spiritual seekers. In recent years, for example, some women have elevated Rosh Chodesh, the marking of the new moon that was celebrated as a festival in biblical times, into an important feminist holiday. And Birkat Hachama, the blessing over the sun that the Talmud instructs Jews to recite every 28 years, saw record levels of observance in April 2009, the last time it was invoked. While some earth-based ideas have seeped into the mainstream, Kohenet sees itself as part of a fringe of Judaism that “includes shamans, kabbalists, wilderness Jews, environmentalist Jews, priestesses of Shekhinah, Jewitches, [and] practitioners of Israeli nature spirituality,” according to its website.

Read the original article at: Tablet Magazine

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