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Women and Jewish Meditation

“Coming to New York is a little like making a shiva call.” These are the words of Sheila Peltz Weinberg, rabbi of the |ewish Community of Amherst (Massachusetts), speaking on November 11 at a Jewish meditation conference in New York City. She explained, “When we practice mindfulness, the quality of attending moment to moment, we are getting ready to be in the house of sorrow . . . The trick in paying a shiva call or in meditation—perhaps the trick in life—is to be calm and alert.” She also pointed out that September 11, like other days of calamity, can be identified just by its date, like Tisha BAv.

Women played major roles throughout the four-day conference on “Jewish Meditation: The Next Steps,” sponsored by Elat Chayyim, the Jewish spiritual retreat center in Accord, N.Y. As a relatively new aspect of mainstream Judaism, Jewish meditation has no entrenched male establishment, and women, many but not all of them rabbis, are clearly active as movement leaders.