The clothes and the jewelry, like the covers of the prayer books and the inscriptions on the women's amulets, tell the story of Jewish women down the generations. Aliza Lavie has traced their history and customs and collected every detail she could in order to shed light on the role of women in Jewish ritual and in the community. The result is a new book, "Minhag Nashim: Masa Nashi shel Minhagim, Tekesim, Tefilot Ve'siporim ("Women's Customs: A Journey of Jewish Customs, Rituals, Prayers and Stories" (Yedioth Books, Hebrew).
Historically, Jewish activity centered around men. The burden of obligation fell on them: checking the house for chametz before Pesach, carrying the lulav on Sukkot, standing next to the mohel at their sons' ritual circumcision and praying in the main chapel of the synagogue.
The new book surveys customs from East and West, from North Africa to Europe. Many of the rituals, naturally, have to do with pregnancy, childbirth and the mikveh, the Jewish ritual purification bath. She describes, for example, amulets that women wore when one of their number went into labor, and that were placed in the beds of infants. In Morocco, women were guarded during labor and ceremonies against the "evil eye" were held that included readings from Scripture and the singing of piyutim, or liturgical songs.