A Rosh Chodesh How-To

Starting and growing a Rosh Chodesh group.

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Originally published in Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology, ed. Susan Berrin (Jason Aronson). Excerpted with permission of the authors.

Let's say you're a woman who's got that "spark." You've heard about Rosh Chodesh groups and you wonder what it would be like to be in such a group. Or, you feel you'd like to talk to other Jewish women on a regular basis. Or, perhaps Jewish life in your community is not very satisfying to you and you are looking for an outlet for your spiritual needs. Or, you grew up, as so many of us did, in a Jewish environment where women's participation was minimal, and you've always yearned to find out more and do more, but it's terribly intimidating to take your first steps in a congregation that includes men who seem to know so much more than you.

First Steps in Getting Started

Share your feelings and thoughts with others. Some will likely "resonate" to your concerns and share an interest in initiating a Rosh Chodesh group.

Probably the two most frequently encountered obstacles at this stage are: (1) feelings of intimidation because you believe you're not smart enough, Jewishly educated enough, a real "leader," or "entitled" in some other more amorphous way to start a group, and/or (2) doubts about anyone else out there who has the same needs you do. Let's consider both these impediments.

First, we'd like to point out that it's those of you who feel most intimidated who probably stand to gain the most from participating in a Rosh Chodesh group. But even women who feel relatively secure and act confidently in other areas of their lives seem to get cold feet about starting something Jewish that isn't a part of synagogue or other communal activities. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome is the feeling that you couldn't possibly know enough Jewishly to take responsibility for planning a meeting or designing a ritual.

The first response to that feeling is, of course, you're right: no one ever knows enough Jewishly and there's always more to learn! The trick is to stop focusing on what you don't know, to start looking at what you do know, and to turn your ignorance into curiosity and the opportunity for learning. It's also true that no one person in the group needs to know everything (we'll get back to that later when we talk about leadership), and each person in a Rosh Chodesh group can contribute from her own unique skills, talents, and experience for the good of the group as whole.

Some people are whizzes at creating a comfortable atmosphere or are skilled with Hebrew texts; others know group dynamics skills or play the guitar. Some are writers, while others are accountants, artists, teachers, nurses, craftswomen, mothers, or all of the above. What is exciting is having a wide range of skills and talents in the group; what is crucial is promoting an openness to, and a respect for, what each woman has to offer the whole.

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Ruth Berger Goldston, PhD is a psychologist who specializes in group therapy training and consultation. She is a former chair of the National Havurah Committee.