Oscars red carpet preview: Is modesty the new sexy?

Pity Jennifer Lopez. As far as memorable red carpet moments go, she set such a high bar at the 2000 Grammys with her now-legendary plunging green Versace dress that she seemed destined to never top it.

But many fashion insiders (and followers) have been buzzing about the actress-singer’s Golden Globes gown earlier this month. That’s not because of how much of her body she showed off, but precisely the opposite: The caped, marigold-colored Giambattista Valli dress covered her shoulders, most of her arms and even much of her legs.

J.Lo was hardly the only celeb on the red carpet taking a (relatively) modest turn. Cate Blanchett rocked an elbow- and knee-covering flapper-inspired fringe dress from Givenchy, while Julianne Moore wore a long-sleeved blue sequin Tom Ford gown that would have been appropriately gorgeous attire for a black-tie synagogue event. And all three women landed on many a best dressed list.

Julianne Moore wearing a glamorous, full-coverage Tom Ford gown to the Golden Globe Awards, Jan. 10, 2016. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“Modesty has very much found its niche within the fashion world, and not just for religious women,” says Adi Heyman, founder of the Jewish fashion blog Fabologie. “There’s an empowerment to owning your look and not having to put everything out there.”

Granted, only a few of these red carpet gowns actually adhere to Orthodox rules of modesty — varying among communities, that typically means covering necklines, backs, elbows and knees. Blanchett’s Golden Globes dress had an open back, after all, and J.Lo’s frock had a slit up to her thigh (and she seemingly spared no opportunity to flaunt said thigh). But compared to the typical trajectory of ever more revealing designs — after all, 2015 showcased the super-bare “naked dress” favored by La Lopez herself — this year’s red carpet represented a shift toward a more covered-up kind of chic.

“You’re not seeing that same in-your-face sex appeal you saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” Heyman says. “Even when a dress is sleeveless, you’re often getting a cape or a higher neckline. Modern fashion is taking a modest spin.”

As such, many fashion insiders are predicting the chaste leanings on display at the Globes are just a taste of what’s to come at the upcoming Academy Awards and eventually, in true trickle-down “fashionomics,” a high-street shop near you.

Esti Burton, owner of Esti’s, a boutique specializing in modest couture with locations on Long Island and in Brooklyn, New York, says she wouldn’t be surprised to see more modesty at the Oscars, which will be held Feb. 28. While her team is often asked to build sleeves and higher necklines onto more revealing dresses, she says her stores also carry dresses from couture designers like Lanvin, Valentino and Carolina Herrera that meet religious clients’ needs. Even Alexander McQueen, a design house known for outrageous style, has “covered-up dresses,” she says.

“The red carpet fashions tend to come in cycles,” Burton says. Now there’s a “been there, done that” feel when it comes to the completely bare look, she says.

“The red carpet will always reflect what’s happening in fashion, and over the past two years or so we’ve seen a definite increase in looks that feature more material and more draping,” says Mimi Hecht, a Hasidic designer who with sister-in-law Mushky Notik runs Mimu Maxi, which has been featured in Vogue. The line specializes in oversized casual clothing, but Hecht says they have plans to roll out some eveningwear in response to requests from religious Jews and Muslims.

“Fashion is always about rebelling, and younger women are now rebelling against the idea that they have to show their skin to be sexy,” Hecht says. “It used to be empowering to show what you have, but now more is more.”

Plus, at the biggest-ticket events in the celebrity circuit, it makes sense that women would want to wear more material, says Heyman — after all, the gowns are works of art.

“When you’re talking in terms of design aesthetic, I say the more the merrier,” she says. “It’s always best when there’s more to look at.”

Heyman credits actresses like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Michelle Williams and Emma Stone — as well as fashionistas like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung — for giving a fresher, cutting-edge feel to a more traditional style of dress, both on and off the red carpet.

In some ways, the Olsen twins have become the patron saints of high-end modest fashion. The two women, who are often photographed in layers of voluminous, flowing clothes, have their own high-end line of ready-to-wear clothing with ankle-length skirts, long-sleeve shirts and coats as staples. Called The Row. the line is described by The Council of Fashion Designers of America as “simplistic shapes that speak to discretion.”

“I’ve always been obsessed with them,” Hecht says of the star siblings. “It’s simplicity done so regally and luxuriously. People always talk really highly about their clothes without talking about how modest they are, which just shows you that you can have clothes that are completely fashionable without the modesty aspect being so obvious.”

But when it comes to red carpet designers that really nail the look, “Valentino is the epitome of modern modesty,” Heyman says. Even labels like Dolce & Gabanna — known for some outrageous, show-stopping looks — have more conservative dresses, she says. (In fact, D & G recently launched its very own line of high-end hijabs and abayas.)

Mayim Bialik, an Emmy nominee for “The Big Bang Theory” and an observant Jew, says her self-imposed red carpet dress code (nothing too short, nothing sleeveless) is a mix of social and religious modesty  — and a way to demonstrate her “second-wave feminist side.” The thinking, according to Bialik, is that she doesn’t need to show everything — that keeping parts of your body private is empowering.

Mayim Bialik at the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., Jan. 17, 2016. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“There’s a resurgence of younger women who are rebelling against the idea that they have to show skin to be sexy,” she says. “In fact, the more you’re covered up, the more you can show your attitude. It used to be just older women or larger-sized women who dressed modestly, but even the most petite actresses are doing it.”

Bialik has also perfected the art of covered-up chic, such as the green Oliver Tolentino dress she wore on Sunday to accept her Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She’s learned some tricks over the years, too.

“When you dress modestly, you need to keep jewelry, makeup and hair sleek, modern and sexy, or risk looking matronly,” Bialik says.

It’s a lesson that some stars will likely put into practice at the upcoming Oscars. Heyman, for one, predicts that we’ll see stars wearing more covered-up, sparkly frocks, like what Moore wore to the Globes.

And while there will undoubtedly be lots of “strapless and low-cut looks” at the Academy Awards, Hecht expects to see a good showing of modest dresses, too.

“Modesty isn’t considered a matronly, archaic, biblical way of dressing anymore,” she says. “And that creates an opening for a lot of designers.”

Orthodox woman sues Lucille Roberts gyms for banning modest clothing

A women’s-only gym chain founded by a Soviet Jewish emigre who wanted to protect women from lewd attention, is being sued by an Orthodox woman in Brooklyn who says its employees repeatedly harassed her over her modest attire.

Yosefa Jalal, 25, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Lucille Roberts fitness chain, claiming employees at two different locations told her she could not wear knee-length skirts while working out, the New York Post and Gothamist reported.

Jalal, an elementary school teacher pursuing a master’s degree at Brooklyn College, alleges that her membership was terminated in July after she refused to take off her skirt during a kickboxing class.

She had been a member of the club since 2011, going to multiple locations in Brooklyn and Long Island. Among the other incidents of harassment alleged in the suit: In 2013, a manager shouted at her for wearing a skirt on the elliptical trainer machine, and a year later an employee forced her to leave after she refused to change out of the skirt.

“Just because I’m an observant Jew doesn’t mean that I should be treated like a criminal and shouldn’t be allowed to work out,” the Post quoted Jalal as saying. “It’s just not fair.”

The lawsuit accuses the company of religious discrimination and seeks unspecified damages, along with a court order forcing Lucille Roberts to reinstate Jalal’s membership and barring it “from discriminating on the basis of religion, and in particular, discriminating against observant-Jewish women.”

Founded in Manhattan in 1969 by a Soviet Jewish emigre named Lucille Roberts,  the company’s mission is, according to its website, to “provide strong, sexy and confident women with a place they can call their own.” Roberts’ 2003 obituary in the New York Times (she died at age 59 of lung cancer, although she was not a smoker), says she made the gyms all-female “because she wanted to protect women from being ogled in coed gyms.”

Although the gym chain discourages flannel, denim, and “street clothes,” it does not formally prohibit skirts, according to Gothamist.

According to the lawsuit and multiple comments on Jalal’s Facebook wall, she is not the only observant Jewish woman whose attire has drawn negative attention from Lucille Roberts employees.

“We don’t have different health clubs for Christians, for Muslims, for Hindus and for Jews,” Ilann Maazel, Jalal’s attorney told the Post. “Health clubs in New York City should be for everybody, whether you wear a cross, a Star of David or a skirt.”

Lucille Roberts’ attorney Maria Patrizia Zucaro did not respond to Gothamist or the Post’s requests for comment.

Beit Shemesh mayor condemns attack on woman for modesty

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul condemned an attack on a woman by a haredi Orthodox man who accused her of not being dressed modestly enough.

Abutbul issued a statement Tuesday condemning the attack of last week.

“I strongly condemn this violent incident, something that is forbidden according to the law and according to the Torah,” Abutbul, of the Sephardic Orthodox  Shas party, said in the statement. “I have asked the chief of police in Beit Shemesh to strongly pursue this case. I also addressed the entire city police force and underlined my policy of zero tolerance to violence.”

The modern Orthodox  woman, who was with her 2-year-old daughter, was attacked at a bus stop in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. The attacker shouted at her before the physical attack, she told a reporter for Israeli television’s Channel 2. The victim said she was wearing a skirt and had her hair covered.

She said no bystanders came to her aid and that her daughter was being treated for post traumatic stress disorder.

Beit Shemesh, a city about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, has seen conflict between haredi and non-haredi and secular residents over restrictions on women’s dress and gender-segregated seating on public buses. In a widely publicized incident in 2011, an 8-year-old Orthodox girl was spat on by haredim on the way to school for her perceived immodest dress.


Purim’s other woman: Vashti, the queen who kept her clothes on

When it comes to the story of Purim, Queen Esther has received lots of attention. All the little girls want to play her in the Purim spiel. She’s brave, beautiful, loving and heroic: the quintessential female biblical role model.

But what about the other brave, role model Queen of Persia? What about Vashti?

Vashti is a proto-feminist who has been unfairly maligned by “mainstream media” and Jews everywhere.

Myself included. When I was 9, I wrote a song about Vashti, set to the tune of “Bicycle Built for Two.” The lyrics were:

Vashti, Vashti, give me your answer, do,
I’m half crazy, and it’s all because of you.
I told you to entertain us,
But you said, “Kiss my tuchis.”
Now get in here, or else you should fear
For the life span that’s left to you.

Growing up in the 1990s, I have been a passionate, self-avowed feminist from an almost comically young age, and even at 9 considered myself quite adept at detecting gender bias and sexism. I was well-versed in the ongoing fight for gender equality and the subtle side-effects of gender discrimination. So sensitive was my internal radar for sexism and gendered political issues that I sometimes picked up on nonexistent clues (for example, I was convinced that Shaggy’s 2000 pop song “It Wasn’t Me” was a sorry excuse for a rape allegation defense). I was also big on supporting the underdog. Around the time that I wrote my Purim song, I did my first school research project. Topic suggestions included things like “Abraham Lincoln” and “dinosaurs.” I opted to research four under-represented female suffragettes, women whose contributions I felt had been under-emphasized in our history textbooks.

“Vashti Deposed,”1890, oil on canvas, by Ernest Normand.

And yet I never stopped to consider Vashti’s side of the story. It didn’t occur to me that Vashti had been a feminist worthy of admiration. Although I thought that King Ahasuerus was unprincipled and boorish and that Vashti’s punishment — deposal and quite likely death — was unfair and unwarranted, I don’t remember ever feeling all that bad for her. It was my understanding that Vashti had been arrogant, vain, even wicked, and really, she probably shouldn’t have made such a fuss about something as minor as a request to attend a party. Didn’t she know about the importance of picking your battles?

I had no idea that Ahasuerus had been drunk for 180 days and that his summons included the demand that Vashti parade around naked in front of his drunken, male guests.

Until recently, my understanding of Vashti was fairly closely aligned with the depiction in Debbie Friedman’s “A Purim Musical.” In “Vashti’s Song,” Vashti explains, “I never like to go to parties when I’m the only woman there. When I said no to Ahasuerus, I really didn’t know he’d care. … He wanted to show them my lovely face. I didn’t feel like dressing up in satin frills and lace. Perhaps it was a pretty silly thing for me to do — no woman wants to be a single act!”

But, as it turns out, Vashti did know that Ahasuerus would care, and the summons had nothing to do with frills, lace or Vashti’s face.

Although I can chant a great V’ahavta, I can’t even speak Hebrew like a fifth-grader. My Purim education came from stories adapted for English-speaking Hebrew schoolchildren, songs and skits. I knew they took some artistic license with the Purim story, but I assumed that the essential elements of the narrative and characters I knew were drawn from the megillah.

When I actually read the Book of Esther, I was surprised to discover that Vashti, as the Book of Esther presents her, was a far cry from the Vashti I knew.

In the Book of Esther, Vashti is a brave woman who risked her life for her beliefs. She was a woman who did pick her battles — and this was not a small matter of a single party. By refusing the king’s summons, Vashti was taking a stand for women’s rights. King Ahasuerus and his advisers — especially Haman — understood this and that was why they advised the king to depose Vashti immediately. If he did not, it would send a message to all of Persia’s men and women that it is acceptable for a woman to disobey her husband’s orders. Male sovereignty would be jeopardized. And so Vashti was deposed (and likely killed), and King Ahasuerus commenced a search for a new wife. And the rest, as they say, was history. Or legend.

The unflattering descriptions of Vashti’s character originate not in the actual Book of Esther but from later commentary. Talmudic scholars came up with a host of theories and explanations about Vashti and her fate, theories that ranged from unfounded to absurd:

Rashi theorizes that Vashti said no because she was suffering from a sudden-onset case of leprosy. M’nos Halevi agrees, claiming that “leprosy was punishment for her conceited manner.” Other scholars suggest that Vashti was suffering from a different affliction: the sudden growth of a tail.

Both the leprosy and the tail theories are grounded in the inventive idea that Vashti refused the summons not out of principle and dignity, but rather because she was ashamed of her body and her appearance and didn’t want to reveal a deformation. The megillah offers no evidence to support this; on the contrary, in it, Vashti is described as beautiful.

Why were rabbinic scholars so eager to prove that Vashti was wicked, conceited, deserving of her fate?

Perhaps because it simplifies the story of Purim and its attendant moral concerns. For Esther to rise, Vashti must first fall, and if Vashti’s fall was deserved and justified, the story is a lot cleaner. We don’t get distracted by empathy for the first queen, and we can move easily forward with the narrative and onto its central concern: the Jews. Furthermore, talmudic scholars were themselves a part of and complicit with a male-dominated social order, so they were unlikely to approve of Vashti’s attempt to challenge the patriarchal status quo.

Negative portraits of Vashti persist to this day, but there is a gradually expanding movement to repair and redeem Vashti’s public image.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Beecher Stowe were among Vashti’s earliest defenders. Stowe described Vashti’s refusal of the king’s summons as “the first stand for women’s rights,” and Stanton wrote that Vashti “added new glory to [her] day and generation … by her disobedience.”

But if Vashti is a feminist role model, does that mean Esther, who — dare I put it this way? — slept her way to the top and was obedient and subservient to the king, is not? Especially since Esther’s strategy for saving the Jewish people involved not just praying and fasting but also getting the king drunk and deliberately arousing his jealousy.

The short — and feminist — answer is that Esther didn’t have a choice. Today, thanks to centuries of women (and men) who have fought for women’s rights, women occupy positions of power across all different fields. Today, sleeping your way to the top is far more likely to land you in the middle (at best) than working your way there.

The town of Shushan is big enough for two female heroes. And it’s high time that Vashti receives the appreciation and respect that she deserves, as a woman who said no. It’s time to celebrate Vashti for having the courage to stand up to a drunken and demanding king, just as we celebrate Esther for persuading that same drunken king to free the Jews.

And who are the modern-day Vashtis?

Lena Dunham might be one of them.

Dunham is the 26-year-old creator and star of the HBO hit “Girls.” Her character, Hannah Horvath, spends a lot of time naked on screen; in fact, in this season’s Episode 5, I’m pretty sure Hannah spends more time out of clothes than in them. So the comparison with Vashti, who was deposed for refusing to appear nude, might seem counterintuitive.

But Vashti wasn’t a prude. She owned her sexuality. So, too, does Dunham, and her nudity on “Girls” is on her own terms; she’s not inhibited by the fact that she doesn’t have the typical body of a nude female lead. Hannah — and Dunham — are provocative, bold and uncompromising. So was Vashti. And so, I suspect, are many of the young women who are fans of the show. You go, “Girls.”

Next step? “Vashti: The Movie.”

New glasses blur women for haredi Orthodox men

Charedi Orthodox men in Israel are buying glasses that will prevent them from seeing the immodest women that threaten their way of life.

The glasses, which are being sold for $32.50, have a special blur-inducing sticker on their lenses that provides clear vision for up to a few yards so as not to impede movement, but anything beyond that becomes blurry — including women.

While it is not known how many have been purchased, the devices have gone on sale recently in Charedi Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem and elsewhere, reported the Times of Israel.

The Charedi Orthodox community’s unofficial “modesty patrol” has developed a range of products to act as a first line of defense against the threat of seeing immodest women, Israeli media reported.

In an effort to maintain their strictly devout lifestyle, the Charedi Orthodox in some neighborhoods have separated the sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces.

Can ultra-Orthodox culture go overboard in its quest for modesty?

The other day, during a meeting at a coffee shop, I showed the producer I was meeting with a newspaper article about my latest Haredi film. The movie, intended for viewing by women only, had recently premiered at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. Suddenly a man at the next table barged into the conversation, launching into a scathing diatribe: “These Haredim don’t serve in the army and they live off government money! And this insanity about not hearing women sing is primitive. They’re crazy!”

My colleague, who is Jewish but not Orthodox, looked bemused. I could barely get a word in edgewise. Did I mention we weren’t on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street but in Beverly Hills?

For those of us steeped in modernity, it is often impossible to see beyond the seductive bubble of popular culture. I wanted to tell this man that the headlines from Israel that had so enraged him, sensationalizing events perpetrated by extremists, were eliciting vicious and unwarranted attacks against all religious Jews, resulting in the proverbial baby thrown out with the dirty bathwater.

Although I didn’t grow up Orthodox, I came to embrace religious values as an adult. Some 20 years ago, while a rising theater and film director, I experienced a profound sense of cognitive dissonance in my world. On the one hand, I yearned for spiritual meaning, inner wholeness and a lasting relationship, yet I was bombarded with advertising images depicting female beauty as utterly flawless and female pop stars performing sexually explicit acts peddled as women’s liberation. The feminist in me wondered: What’s wrong with this picture?

Read more on Haaretz.com.

Woman assaulted by haredi men in Beit Shemesh

A woman hanging posters for Israel’s national lottery was assaulted by haredi Orthodox men in Beit Shemesh.

The men reportedly surrounded her car, slashed her tires and stole her car keys. A stone thrown at the car hit the woman in the head.

The posters did not contain any photos of women.

Police helped the woman and arrested three suspects, Ynet reported. Other attackers reportedly fled the scene and are being sought by police. The woman filed a complaint with the police.

Beit Shemesh has been the scene of tension between haredi Orthodox and city residents as well as visitors over the exclusion of women in the public sphere.

Removal of modesty signs in Beit Shemesh sparks riot

Haredi Orthodox men rioted against police in Beit Shemesh to protest a crackdown on the exclusion of women in the public sphere.

The clashes occurred Monday afternoon in two neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh, a northwestern suburb of Jerusalem with a population of 80,000. Two residents were arrested.

About 300 haredi Orthodox men threw stones at police and burned trash cans after the police removed a sign calling for the separation of the sexes on city streets, Haaretz reported. The signs had been replaced after being removed the previous day. 

Rioters on Sunday reportedly surrounded and threw stones at the city workers who removed the signs. Some reportedly called the police who came to break up the riot “Nazis.”

One sign called for women to cross the street in front of a local yeshiva; another called for women to dress modestly in public. The sign removal began Sunday evening, when it was assumed that residents would be in their homes lighting Chanukah candles, Ynet reported.

Following media reports of attacks on women by haredi Orthodox men, the Beit Shemesh municipality said it would install hundreds of security cameras in areas where harassment of women was occurring.

News teams from two Israeli television channels were attacked by haredi Orthodox men attempting to film in the city on Sunday and Monday.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 people have responded to a Facebook group organizing a march in Beit Shemesh this week to protest the treatment of women in the city and the increasing haredization of the city, Haaretz reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence against women in the public sphere.

The order came from Netanyahu Saturday night through Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch following a television expose the previous evening showing an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl who said she was afraid to walk to school because of harassment from local haredi Orthodox men.

Netanyahu reportedly also spoke with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make certain that laws against excluding women from the public space were enforced.

Menopause Goes Mainstream

After years of being talked about in hushed tones as “the change of life” — or not being talked about at all — menopause is now in the spotlight. Two recent plays, “Is it Hot in Here … Or Is it Me?” and “Menopause the Musical” literally put menopause center stage. A support group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centers, called “Red Hot Mamas,” is part of a nationwide program. There’s even a World Menopause Day.

So it’s no surprise that the topic is also being explored in a Jewish context as women increasingly look to their tradition for meaningful ways to mark this transition.

“Jewish tradition has been silent for a lot of years about menopause and other biological passages that women go through, and the losses and stresses that these passages represent,” said Rabbi Debra Orenstein, spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom in Tarzana.

“In the last 25 to 30 years, we’ve begun to fill in some of these gaps. Menopause touches on getting older, on loss of fertility, on mortality and femininity. Judaism has a lot to teach about these themes.”

Using Jewish sources and existing traditions, rituals have been created to recognize menopause as well as childbirth, abortion, miscarriage, retirement and a host of other biological milestones and significant life events that have not traditionally been formally acknowledged. While many women are creating their own ceremonies, an increasing number of books provide suggested formulas and inspirational readings. Ceremonies can range from a simple blessing to an elaborate seder.

“Many menopause rituals draw on Pesach metaphors, and many use mikvah. There are also menopause prayers based on new moon blessings and tkhines [Yiddish women’s prayers],” noted Orenstein, who edited “Lifecycles Volume 1: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones” (Jewish Lights Pub, 1998). Examples of seder-based ceremonies can be found on the Web site Ritualwell.org. One incorporates expanded meanings of such Pesach symbols as the four cups of wine, the four questions, the shank bone and matzah.

Regarding the middle matzah, author Shoshana Silberman writes, “One section will stand for a part of me that is gone. The other section will stand for what lies ahead. These parts will be united at the end of my journey.”

Other ceremonies focus on the mikvah.

“More and more women are discovering the mikvah as part of marking — of moving from one stage of their lives to another,” said Penelope Oppenheimer, supervisor of the Rabbinical Assembly’s mikvah at the University of Judaism. “Mikvah represents the womb of the Jewish people. So when you come to the mikvah you’re actually being reborn, which opens itself up to the idea that you are emerging into a new self. It isn’t a matter of losing things, but of going toward something that’s new and exciting and different … and that has worth as a Jewish experience.”

In addition to ceremonies around Passover and the mikvah, women are creating their own Jewish interpretations. Speech therapist Linda Kaufman created and participated in a midlife ritual along with five other women as part of a class at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale, N.Y.

“We looked at the roles we’d played up to this point in our lives, and what we wanted to commit ourselves to [now],” Kaufman said. “I thought it was transforming.”

As a result of her experience, she helped start a Lifecycles Havurah for women at Makom Ohr Shalom.

So why has it taken this long for Judaism to recognize such integral moments of women’s lives? Both Oppenheimer and Orenstein agree that pointing to a patriarchal society is too simplistic. Oppenheimer says the lack of rituals around menopause may have resulted from the “inherent value of modesty at a time when menopause was considered a very private matter.”

Orenstein noted that menopause is a relatively modern phenomenon. Women continued to have children throughout their lives, which were much shorter in ancient days. But in our time, the lack of recognition of such events as miscarriage or menopause has caused many women to suffer in silence.

“Making ritual available takes away any aspect of shame,” Orenstein said.

She believes that rituals for these occasions “provide a communal way to address” such major life transitions.

Orenstein said there is no “standard” menopause ritual at this time because it hasn’t had time to evolve. By contrast, naming ceremonies for girls have been occurring much longer and versions are offered by the Reconstructionist, Conservative and Reform movements.

“It wasn’t until the 1998 edition that the Conservative rabbi’s manual offered a full-blown ceremony for naming a baby girl, as well as prayers for grieving miscarriage and stillbirth,” Orenstein said. “My hope is that the next edition will include prayers for [getting older] and menopause, too.”

In the meantime, she said, women who sit down to create their own rituals learn about and forge a stronger link with their tradition. And that’s something worth celebrating.