Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the beginning of each month in the Jewish calendar, has always existed as a women's holiday. In the past 30 years, women's connection to Rosh Chodesh has been intensified with the formation of Rosh Chodesh groups across the world. Each Rosh Chodesh group is unique and should reflect the interests, personalities and passions of the women involved. There is no one way to celebrate Rosh Chodesh and there are no rules for establishing a Rosh Chodesh group. At the core, it should be comprised of women who gather on a monthly basis to celebrate the new month and their lives as Jewish women.
The following resource guide is intended to help facilitate the formation and monthly meetings of Rosh Chodesh groups on campus. The activities and rituals in this guide are simply suggestions. Each group should decide for itself how its monthly meetings will be conducted. Especially on a college campus, where there is constant turnover in population and changing concerns of the student body, regular assessment of the goals of the Rosh Chodesh group is crucial for the group's success.
For an excellent discussion on how to develop a successful Rosh Chodesh group, see the article "Starting and Growing a Rosh Chodesh Group"
by Ruth Berger Goldston and Merle Feld.
General Structure of Monthly Meetings
While there are no set rules for conducting a Rosh Chodesh group, it is strongly recommended that each month's meeting follow a similar basic structure. This helps to provide continuity from month to month and helps to make the Rosh Chodesh group "sacred space." The suggested structure is to begin with an opening ritual. The ritual should set the context for the group's meaning. It should be meaningful to those women who participate every month, but also welcoming to new participants. Once the opening ritual is complete, a brief explanation of the month being celebrated should be given. The explanation may include mention of Jewish holidays that occur during the month, as well as famous Jewish women associated with the month. Next, the group should do some sort of activity. Activities of the group should vary from month to month and may include a text study, a crafts project, and/or a conversation. The activity may relate directly to the month being celebrated or may address a general topic or theme of interest to the group. The meeting should end with a closing ritual.
Suggested Structure for Rosh Chodesh Group Meeting:
I. Opening Ritual - Should be meaningful to regular participants and welcoming to new ones.[Back to the top]
II. Brief Explanation of the Month - May include Jewish holidays that occur during the month, famous Jewish women associated with the month, or themes of the month.
III. Activity - Should vary from month to month and may include a text study, a crafts project, conversation, etc.
IV. Closing Ritual - A chance to reflect on the meeting and share wishes and blessings for the upcoming month.
The opening ritual is designed to be meaningful to regular participants while being welcoming to new participants. It begins with a brief explanation of Rosh Chodesh and its significance to women. This helps to orient new participants while setting the context of the meeting as "sacred space." Groups may want to experiment with how the opening ritual is presented. Some groups may have each person read a paragraph. Others may choose a different leader each month, and some may have the same woman lead the opening ritual at every meeting.
Announcing the New Moon
This section requires a bit of preparation to find out exactly when the new moon appears. To get the exact time, consult a Jewish calendar or visit Esras Torah. You may want to familiarize yourself with the Sanctification of the New Moon ritual found in the Shabbat Morning services of most siddurim.
Lighting a Candle
The lighting of the candle is intended to recall the ancient practice of announcing Rosh Chodesh by lighting bonfires on mountaintops across the Land of Israel. As such, there is no formal blessing associated with lighting the candle. The group may want to create a formal ritual associated with lighting the candle, such as selecting a text to read. The group may also want to experiment with the types of candles it uses (e.g., scented, braided, different colors, etc.).
This is a crucial part of the gathering for making everyone feel welcome and comfortable in the group. It is important that all the participants take it seriously and are open with each other. The format for introductions is:[Back to the top]
Participant: "I am _____ bat (the daughter of) _____."
Group: "Shalom Aleichen _____!"
Participant: "Aleichen Shalom! My Jerusalem was..."
One possible variation on this format is to have each woman mention her female heroes or role models in addition to or instead of her mother.
You may want to look at the Kidush Levana or "Sanctification of the Moon" prayer found in traditional siddurim to familiarize yourself with this section.
Introducing the Month
Once the introductions are complete, someone should give a brief introduction to the month being celebrated. The month profile sheets in the Resource Guide will be helpful in preparing the introduction. The introduction may include an explanation of the Month's Zodiac, an overview of Jewish holidays and/or significant events that occur during the month, a profile of women associated with the month, etc. This introduction should highlight aspects of the month on which the group's activity will not focus.
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The activity for the month should reflect the needs and interests of the Rosh Chodesh group. If your group is comprised primarily of "Hillel regulars" who come to most other Hillel events, it may not make sense for the month's activity to focus on a holiday or theme for which your Hillel has activities planned. If, on the other hand, your group is comprised primarily of students who do not attend most other Hillel events, the Rosh Chodesh group is an excellent time to do an activity based on an upcoming holiday. The type of activity should vary from month to month as well. Unless your Rosh Chodesh group has expressed a strong interest in text study, it does not make sense to do text studies for three meetings in a row.
The month profile sheets can be used to create many kinds of activities. Feel free to use the sheets however you would like. You may want to combine several of the suggestions into one activity, or borrow elements of one activity for a different one. Your group may also want to use its meetings as a chance to hear from guest speakers, or to program with other groups on campus.
The month profiles were created to help put together meaningful Rosh Chodesh activities with minimal effort. They are also intended to provide you with ideas to create your own activities. Feel free to contact Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning for further ideas or to help create your own activities.
The month profiles all follow the same structure:
[Back to the top]Opening and Closing Ceremonies
The Jewish tradition recognizes the astrological symbols of each month. In fact, many of the Jewish months get their names from ancient Babylonia.
Significance of the Month
This describes the month's place in the Jewish calendar as well as its significance in Jewish tradition.
This section describes all Jewish holidays that occur during the month. It provides brief descriptions of the holidays and how they are observed. When applicable, it also provides modern holidays and observances of world Jewry and the State of Israel.
Women to Celebrate
This section highlights women who are associated with holidays or themes that fall during the month.
Famous Women's Yahrziet
Jewish tradition commemorates our dead by memorializing them on the anniversary of their death. This section highlights famous Jewish women who passed away during the month.
This section refers you to text studies about holidays, themes, and personalities associated with the month.
This section gives some suggested activities that tie into the themes and/or holidays of the month. Many of them can be done in conjunction with one of the text studies or conversations.
This section highlights some themes and issues that may lead to rich and meaningful conversations. You may want to prepare some talking points to ensure that the conversation flows.
Learn more about the opening and closing ceremonies
of Rosh Chodesh.