Volume 13, 2008 : Between Tradition and Modernity : The Plurality of Jewish Customs and Rituals

Breaking the Glass: New Tendencies in the Ritual Practice of Modern Jewish Orthodox and Alternative Weddings
Ana Prashizky
Sociological Institute for Community Studies, Bar-Ilan University, and
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ashkelon Academic College


This article explores changes in the traditional ritual of glass-breaking, which takes place at a wide range of orthodox and alternative wedding ceremonies in contemporary Israel. The study is based on anthropological “situational analysis” of religious symbols that examines meanings attached to changing contexts and situations of their carriers. Six general tendencies in the alteration of glass-breaking symbolism are considered: return to the roots; eradication; aesthetization; challenge to the patriarchal nature of the act; politicization, and translation into individual or universal meanings. These changes reflect multiple broader transformations in Israeli society, such as attempts to increase gender equality, cultural contest between religious and secular sectors of society, Jewish renewal movement, expanding individualization, protests from both sides of the political map, and nascent fundamentalism. Perhaps the most interesting finding of this research is that these social trends seem to affect all types of wedding rituals and all social groups included in this study, even if not in the same way or to the same extent. Performance of alternative ritual actions is taking place not only in new alternative weddings, but also in orthodox weddings.

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