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Women and Judaism Essay

Feminism as a movement within Judaism that seeks to strike a level ground in religious social status of both women and men. They sought to open up new opportunities for women experience in the leadership of the synagogue. Feminists felt discriminated on duty allocation and participation in service to God. Critiques of the feminists. According to the Jewish law, women were prohibited from learning the Torah and the laws of being fruitful to the society. They were allowed to learn the basic understanding of Torah and the simple rules of running a household.

According to this form of Judaism, men and women had different duties to play in religious life. (Christina 2000)These differences were a reflection of how different men and women were in nature and in respect to their strengths and weakness. Women were discriminated by the religious Judaism with limited roles to play. The aggression of the feminists led to the attention of the church leaders who later changed such that mixed sitting was allowed, cooperating in synagogue leadership and to a large extent permitted the women to read the Torah. In addition to these, feminists held a critique on the use of “God language.

” They sharply argued that the synagogue and its religious operations were dominated by masculine, hierarchical images of God. This attack was two fold. One was an aggressive move in replacing the masculine pronouns of God with gender neutral forms. Since then, theologians handled the crisis by changing the second pronoun for God to He/She. The feminists held another radical move on metaphors used that perceived God as feminine. They argued that God was used as having been giving birth to the world. The metaphor, “God is the source of life”, they said that it gave an implicit and a wrong image of God. (Adler, 1997)

Scholars supported the idea saying that God is never male or female. ( Plaskow, 1998) The core of this critique was advanced by Plaskow who noted that the language we use in religion shapes the way we construct our world experience. Feminists argued that women were denied to take roles of rabbis and cantors. The Jewish theological seminary in 1983 responded to this by voting unanimously to ordain women as rabbis. Feminists also complained of sexual intercourse during their menstruation period. This was addressed in 2006 when it was adopted that women abstain from sexual contact during and following the menstruation period.

(Raphael, 2003)The Committee of Jewish Law and Standards also agreed to shortening the niddah period and lifting the ban on sex during the niddah period. Tikkun olam and its relation with feminism Tikkun olam is a Hebrew phrase meaning repairing the world. The concept was given meaning and further connotations relating to modern Judaism. Jew feminists describe the key role of feminism to their lives by using the metaphor “to bridge. ” It means that all women of Jewish origin should make new contributions in connecting their Jewish life and the secular communities.

This was achievable by a collaborative move among themselves to push the Jewish authorities to be more inclusive of the women. The goal here was to mend the interrelationships between the Jewish community and their gender identity. Their participation in this renewal process was creating a different period of Jewish life. This view was based on the sense that modernity had challenged Judaism and this challenge demanded radical responses. Feminism impacted a lot on a number of denominations that emerged from the traditional Judaism. These included; • reform Judaism • Reconstructionist Judaism • conservative Judaism

• orthodox Judaism Reform Judaism Active feminism on Judaism reformed on the way women were viewed. The movement was against the way the Jewish law and traditions were the only decision making body. Women argued that decisions made had to consider the ethical principles of Judaism. The reform Jews believed that it was unethical to uphold traditional principles and distinctions between men and women. the impact was that they could not withstand intimidation by men who were allocated so many duties in religious matters. Reconstructionist Judaism This movement was based on the idea of Mordecai Kaplan(1981-1983).

It views Judaism particularly as an evolving civilization. The movement started as a radical branch of the conservative Judaism. Kaplan believed that it was impossible for Jews in the modern world to continue with the teaching of the traditional Judaism theological claims. (Christina, 2000) This movement sought to establish a religiously satisfying philosophy for those who had lost faith in traditional Judaism and its teachings. Conservative Judaism Feminism revolutionized traditional Judaism. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards approved several decisions to be duties of women on Judaism. These included; • participating in the Minyaa

• reading of the Torah in public • serving as cantor • serving as arbiters in matters of religious law, Rabbi • be allowed to wear tallit and tefillin Orthodox Judaism Feminism led to the formation of the modern day orthodox Judaism. This gave women grievances more attention and interest. The modern orthodox rabbis provided more advanced levels of education to the women. this included detailed knowledge of Torah. (Adler, 1997) Through this feminism group, modern orthodox women who had attended college and universities argued that their secular knowledge should equal their Jewish education and knowledge of the affairs of the synagogue.

Conclusion Feminism has been very influential in breaking up the traditional Judaism into different denominations all over the world. All the denominations viz, reform Judaism, orthodox Judaism, reconstructionist Judaism and conservative Judaism, have their goal evangelization through the word of God. References Adler, R. (1997) Theory and ethics of Judaism: New York, Jewish publication Society. Christina (2000) Experience of the first women priests: Norwich, Canterbury press. Raphael, M. (2003) Jewish feminist theory: London, Routledge press


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