OPINION: Using rituals to tell our stories

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Using rituals to tell our stories

by Tess Joseph

As a writer, a Liberal Jew and a lesbian, I have often felt that I am on the margins. I’ve either felt too Jewish in my subject matter or too lesbian. The mainstream has always felt inaccessible.

I have been very limited in publishing opportunities and have lacked both self-belief and a platform for my work. The one exception was when I contributed to Shifra, a short-lived Jewish feminist magazine that was established as a response to the Spare Rib dispute.

24 tess joseph
Tess Joseph

Then, in October 2004, I became part of Ritual Reconstructed and things changed. The project is a collaboration between Liberal Judaism, the Centre for Trust, Peace & Social Relations, the universities of Portsmouth, Coventry and Bucks New University.

I was invited to participate in the ritual bricolage element of the project. Bricolage is the construction of  work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. I am a storyteller who engages with what it means to be a practising Jew and what this means for me as a lesbian. Ritual bricolage is very much part of what I do.

In a workshop on storytelling, storyteller Sef Townsend encouraged people to use their own ritual objects as a starting point for telling their stories. I couldn’t think of better advice.

The reason that projects such as Ritual Reconstructed are important is that they warmly welcome those who identify as Jewish and as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex or Asexual). We can participate through creative mediums such as film, performance, installation and storytelling in expressing how being LGBTQIA has influenced, shaped or changed our Jewish faith rituals, and vice versa.

I felt like I had come home, that I finally had a solid base for creativity that engages with these questions. Previous artistic isolation was combatted through a new community being formed. Ritual Reconstructed enables the creation of collaborative and singular pieces and is collating/ curating pieces across an artistic spectrum that are available on its website — ritualreconstructed.com. I urge everyone to get involved and come to the wrap event, at JW3 from 3pm to 10pm on November 24.

As for me, I am developing a new piece, reimagining Yentl. You can catch it there.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: