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Orthodox Judaism and Feminism

sarina's picture
My paper is about feminism in the Jewish orthodox community. I posted it as a PDF because I have explanatory footnotes that I wanted included with the paper.
Sarina feminism works cited 2.pdf44.01 KB
Feminist Paper 2.pdf78.51 KB


Anne Dalke's picture

Segregating Feminism

We've assembled quite a range of essays about gender segregation this week:
Veiling in Persepolis,
Female Veiling in Iran, Veiling in the United States and an essay on Architecture look @ Islamic, rather than Jewish practices, but you may find them of considerable interest in their explorations--similar to yours--of the variety of ways in which gender differentiation might empower women. Also of real interest to you should be a study of Secular Humanistic Jews, who approach the questions of sexuality quite differently than the Orthodox Jews whose practices you explore here.

What I appreciate in your essay is its deliberative attempt to spell out both the history of Jewish women's exclusion from religious life in the synagogue, and the familial practices which make their menstrual cycles part of an extended religious ritual in the home. This whole notion of setting aside, the action of distinguishing sacred from profane space--whether it be the sabbath, set aside as a time for worship; or menstruation, set aside as a time for restricting sexual activity--is of course an act of segregation. You give credance to the possibility that such segregation need not entail discrimination, but actually increase the sense of value and worth.

That's where your essay stops, and that's exactly where I found myself wanting you to go on a bit: how might feminism be expressed in practices of segregation? What ritual activities might be seen as contributing, in particular, to women's sense of their own value? Whether as individuals or as part of a larger community? Our class discussion of third world women who may reject "rights language," because it values personal autonomy and mobility over communal ties, @ the neglect of social responsibilities, might prove helpful to you here.