This ethnography explores the religious beliefs and rituals of a group of elderly Jewish women, originally from Kurdistan and Yemen, who now live in Jerusalem. Sered visited the women in their homes and accompanied them on trips to holy tombs, local ethnic synagogues, and Judaica classes. She finds that, though mainly illiterate and excluded from formal religious practices, the women are experts in rituals aimed at safeguarding the well-being of their extended families. By analyzing their rituals, daily experiences, life-stories, and non-verbal gestures, Sered uncovers the strategies these women have used to circumvent the patriarchal institutions of Judaism, and how they have developed their own "little tradition" within and parallel to the "great tradition" of Torah Judaism.
"This splendid and often lyrical ethnography of Kurdish and Yemenite elderly women expands upon a growing body of scholarship about the experiences of women in patriarchal religions from a more nuanced feminist perspective about the meaning and function of ritual and the sacred in women's lives. From the onset, Susan Starr Sered's work situates itself on the cutting edge of both her discipline and the study of religion. Her contribution is considerable....An engaging account of women bound by tradition but also active in the creation of their own religious experience....Sered not only brings a fresh perspective to the study of women's experiences in traditional religious settings but reflects without polemic on the androcentric biases in the study of religion itself."--The Journal of Religion
"Sered lovingly and graphically portrays how religion permeates the everyday lives of elderly Jewish women in Jerusalem....I recommend Sered's book to my colleagues and would include it in student reading for anthropology, sociology, and religion courses....It is excellent in-depth case studies such as this one that demonstrates the power and necessity of qualitative studies."--Sociology of Religion