Accolades: Vanessa Ochs

Vanessa L. Ochs, associate professor of religious studies, won the 2007 National Jewish Book Award in the Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice category for "Inventing Jewish Ritual," which was published by the Jewish Publication Society this summer.

The National Jewish Book Awards will be given to authors in 20 categories at a ceremony at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan on March 4.

In her book, Ochs invites her readers to explore how Jewish practice can be more meaningful through renewing, reshaping and even creating new rituals, such as naming ceremonies for welcoming baby girls, healing services, Miriam's cup, mitzvah days, egalitarian wedding practices and commitment ceremonies.

Ochs describes the range and diversity of interest in the, Jewish-American experience and examines how it reflects tradition as it revives Jewish culture and faith. She also shows how to create ritual objects, sacred spaces, ceremonies and liturgies that can be paths to greater personal connection with history and with holiness.

A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Ochs has written several other books: "Sarah Laughed," "The Jewish Dream Book" (with Elizabeth Ochs), "Words on Fire," and "Safe and Sound."