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The First Reform Liturgy: Penina Moise’s Hymns and The Discourses of American Identity


Penina Moise, when discussed at all, has been placed in the context of a nineteenth-century women’s domestic sphere. Her main body of work, however, is in fact specifically public and was vital and central to the development of the first Reform Jewish movement in America, in Charleston during the 1840s. Moise wrote close to two hundred hymns for this movement, the first Reform liturgy in America, shaping community worship for the next hundred years. Her hymns combine many different contemporary discourses—Jewish, republican, evangelical, and liberal theological—in ways that reflect, enact, and generate the complex identities of Jewish Americans.