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B'Not Esh records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00626

Scope and Contents

The records contain notes, writings by B'Not Esh members, digital photographs, and memorabilia.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1980 - 2020


Conditions Governing Access

At the direction of the donor, the collection is closed until June 1, 2028.

Certain additional items identified by the donor are closed until January 1, 2043.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

B'not Esh was founded in 1981 by a small group of committed Jewish feminists who were involved in various counter-cultural Jewish organizations and who wanted to create a space for Jewish feminists to meet, talk, study, and pray together in a sustained way. Their goal was nothing less than the transformation of Judaism into a tradition that fully incorporates women's history, perspectives, and experiences. With the exception of 1982, the group has met for four days over Memorial Day weekend every year since its founding, at the Grail retreat center in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. Each retreat includes come combination of discussion of cutting edge feminist issues, study, creative expression, and feminist liturgical innovation and experimentation. Among the topics that have received attention over the years are God-language and the nature of God, sexuality and spirituality, politics and spirituality, embodiment, class, gender, race, group dynamics and family systems, Israel, competition, power, and internalized oppression. Attention to group process has emerged as a serious part of the agenda, and so have issues around cost-sharing—a commitment of the group. There is no formal structure to the group outside the weekend, but participation in B'not Esh has had a profound impact on the work of many members as they have both shared new projects within the group and incorporated insights gained through the group into their work and their Jewish lives. There are roughly thirty people in the collective at any given time (people have left and come in over the years), twenty-four of whom can fit in the space any given weekend. All members are committed Jewish feminists, knowledgeable about Judaism and feminism. Despite shifts in membership, the group has maintained a commitment to meet every year as a community. Members have included rabbis, graduate students, professors, social workers, psychologists, musicians, writers, and community activists. Over the years, the percentage of rabbis in the group has increased.


3.023 linear feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from Marth Ackelsberg, 2008-2017.

Related Materials

Martha Ackelsberg Papers

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.



B'Not Esh records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2021-10-25: Updated notes and published
  • 2021-10-28: Added two legacy container inventories

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063