Judaism and feminism: how far we have come, how far we need to go The Stute – The Stute

Posted By on October 15, 2022

I am proud to be a Jewish woman. I come from a long line of strong, Jewish women who have fought to keep our religion a sacred part of our livelihood. They inspire me every day to be a better version of myself. With this being said, since it is the Jewish New Year, I have decided to conduct research on the impact women have had on the Jewish religion. I know there have been inequalities within my religion in the past, and I know powerful women before me have fought to change this.

Judaism has been considered to be a patriarchal religion, regarding women as having a lower status than men. For example, women were discouraged from learning and studying the Torah. Rabbi Eliezer states, If a man teaches his daughter Torah, its as if hes teaching her foolishness. What Rabbi Eliezer meant by foolishness is that women arent on the same intellectual level as men. They were rarely allowed into the main study house to pray and learninstead, they were given a subsidiary option. In addition, the traditional role of Jewish women was to take care of the home, bear children, and obey their husbands.

Its important to note there are three major sectors of the Jewish religion: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. A brief overview is stated by Mordecai Waxman, Reform has asserted the right of interpretation but it rejected the authority of legal tradition. Orthodoxy has clung fast to the principle of authority, but has in our own and recent generations rejected the right to any but minor interpretations. The Conservative view is that both are necessary for a living Judaism.

The feminist movement took America by storm in the 1960s: Betty Friedan published her book The Feminine Mystique, Maria Goepper-Mayer was the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize, and Lesley Gores hit song You Dont Own Me took over the music charts. Individuals were standing tall for what is right, and the women of Judaism quickly followed suit. One of the first major steps taken was allowing women to become rabbis; in 1972, Sally Priesand was the first American woman to become a rabbi within the Reform movement. In 1983, Amy Eilberg was named the first Conservative rabbi. Not until 2016 was Lila Kagedan named the first Orthodox rabbi here in New Jersey, changing the course of history.

In addition, the forgotten prayers written by women are being integrated into Judaism, also known as techinot. As stated in Feminism and Judaism, published by Harvard University, Reclaiming aspects of traditional Judaism which relate to the female experience, many have begun to introduce new rituals and perspectives into the Jewish canon. Jewish history is being rewritten to include womens experiences, as in the unique prayers for women called techinot. In a modern version of Midrash, Jewish texts are being reinterpreted to uncover the womans point of view. In my opinion, techinot are some of the most beautiful prayers within the Jewish religion. New prayers have also been composed to highlight womens experiences in Judaism, such as a volume created by Marcia Falk.

With this all being said, I truly love my religion and I admire the progress that has been made and is still being made today. Jewish women are strong, powerful, and brave for the work they have done to reach equality within our religion. While we still have work to do, Judaism has taken large steps to combat inequality and embrace the ideas, beliefs, and prayers of Jewish women.

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Judaism and feminism: how far we have come, how far we need to go The Stute - The Stute

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