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Jewish girls get slapped on their first menstrual cycle

When a Jewish girl has her first ever menstrual cycle, every woman in the family (and sometimes, any woman) will slap her across the face. 

My informant recollects getting her period for the first time while she was alone with her younger sister at their grandma’s house. She was panicking because no one was home and her post-menopausal grandmother doesn’t keep the necessary supplies in the house. When her grandma got home that afternoon, she tentatively whispered what had happened. Her grandmother screamed in delight, raised her hand and slapped her across the face with full gusto. My informant started sobbing, and then her sister did too, because they had no idea why grandma was hitting her!

I’ve been on both the receiving and giving end of the slap, and it’s meant as as gesture of love, and a very exciting time. When a girl gets her period for the first time, it’s not unusual for the entire extended family to be informed, and then that girl is subjected to slaps as her aunts and cousins and grandmothers come to congratulate her. It’s part of the rite of passage that comes with “becoming a woman.”

The slap supposedly comes out of ancient times, when a woman getting her period was a sign of her coming into her sexual maturity–and needed to be slapped for being a sinful, sexual being (basically implying that she is a whore.) For most Jews now, though, the slap is a joyous, fun, and slightly painful tradition.

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