Kohenet connects women to their unique history of spiritual leadership, which is thousands of years old. The women of the first Kohenet class are the pioneers of this dream of renewal. For over a year and a half, they have studied the Bible, engaged in traditional and creative ritual practice, opened up ancient Near Eastern women’s myths, created art, writing, and sacred community, and explored their own spiritual paths. Some have taken on new names to reflect their deep calling to this sacred work. Yosefa Greenberg, a Kohenet sister from the first Kohenet class, writes:
“As a Jewish woman, Kohenet has fulfilled the most sacred birthright of knowing that I have a strong and meaningful place among Jewish women of ancient times, today, and all of the future. Though we are each very different, I swear I see myself in all of their eyes; and my own eyes are often moist from laughing or learning in the presence of these most spiritual sisters!”
Each Kohenet sister created a long-term project that reflected her own unique gifts. Projects included:
Kohenet also developed a weekday and Shabbat siddur (prayerbook) using traditional liturgy combined with feminine God-language, earth-centered prayer, creative ritual and guided meditations. The siddur was illustrated by a Kohenet participant and contained writings from a number of Kohenet women. It is now available for sale to others who want to pray in the Kohenet tradition.
The first Kohenet retreat took place in August 2007. We danced with the Maiden to celebrate the women’s holiday of Tu b’Av, laughed with the sacred Fool, opened our hearts and voices to speak as the Prophetess, and explored birthing practices with the Midwife. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb’s ritual theater and puppetry class and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub’s peacemaking class offered us insights into where we had come from and where we are going. The Kohenet women welcomed all the retreat center guests to Shabbat davvening with anointing oils, incense, and song.
At the winter Kohenet retreat, we explored the Mother, the Wise Woman, the Shrinekeeper, and the Lover. We created midrash with poet and author Alicia Ostriker and considered archaeological findings related to priestessing with Dr. Deborah Grenn. We connected the book of Proverbs with sacred trees, and explored connections between ancient Jewish water rituals and modern African priestesses. We held a hot tub mikvah in freezing temperatures and practiced the arts of storytelling and divination.
In August 2007, we returned to the warmth of summer, accompanied by the Matriarch, the Mourning Woman, the Seeker, and the Shamaness. We discussed ancient, medieval, and modern women’s practices of pilgrimage, magic, public lament, and power. We learned amulet-making with Rabbi Rayzel Raphael and deepened our practices of ceremony and chant through ritual working groups. We experienced a conversion, a healing ritual, and a kabbalistic dreaming ceremony tying us together with blue thread the color of the sky.
In January 2007, the first Kohenet class will receive their initiation as Tzovot— sacred keepers of sacred space and time. The tzovot are mentioned in the Bible as the women who served at the door of the Tabernacle. Twelve dedicated women will be initiated into their roles as facilitators of sacred experience. They are the beginning of the new Kohenet sisterhood, and the inheritors of the ancient dream of the priestesses: women living the life of the spirit to its fullest, and sharing that life with others.
Many of the new tzovot will go on to study another year and a half to receive Kohenet ordination. This advanced training will focus on Jewish ceremonial life-cycle skills, and creative spiritual expression. Each tzovah will choose one or more of the thirteen netivot to explore and embody more deeply throughout her second stage of training. Ellie Barbarash, a Kohenet sister who will be continuing on in the training, explains:
“By grappling so honestly with ancient texts, by embracing feminism and authentic female connected power, by opening up the feminine portal to Deity, my Kohenet training midwifes into birth my comfortable Jewish identity. Kohenet nutures and supports my developing ritual leadership in Jewish community. Kohenet educates me about my connections, as a Jewish woman, with the root cultures of ancient Hebrew speaking people. The reading lists, the comradery of the Kohanot, the deep and compassionate pedagogy of the instructors, and the feminine God-languaged siddur, have been invaluable in my life.”
To make the Kohenet journey your own, click here for an application.