Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Gary Gilbert

Reader 2

Luis Salés

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This thesis explores how the Conservative Jewish wedding ritual shifts in meaning during the creation of same-sex wedding rituals because of a re-definition of the Conservative Jewish community as a whole. This case study is then tied to ritual theory more broadly.

In Chapter 1, I discuss what makes a wedding a ritual. By defining the wedding as a powerful, transformative, and performative ritual, I examine how the creation of same-sex wedding rituals is an ideal example to help us understand the ways that a religious community might approach ritual change. I also interrogate how marriage has been used to define Jewish community boundaries, contextualizing new same-sex wedding rituals within this long history. In Chapter 2, I zoom in to examine the debates around Conservative Jewish same-sex marriage and the rituals that emerged after same-sex weddings were allowed by the movement. The diversity of the two rituals that the CJLS approved reveals how the Conservative movement imagines not only ritual change but its own community and its future. In Chapter 3, I develop my own theory of ritual change based on the example of same-sex wedding rituals in the Conservative Jewish movement. I propose that ritual change is often influenced by change in the definitions of both the ritual and the religious communities that perform said ritual.