Women in Judaism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.

Contents

[edit] Biblical times

Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail who married David, Rahab and Esther. In the Biblical account these women did not meet with opposition for the relatively public presence they had.

According to Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between the Israelites and the God of Abraham at Mount Sinai. The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai, however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well. In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.[1]

Marriage and family law in biblical times favored men over women. For example, a husband could divorce a wife if he chose to, but a wife could not divorce a husband without his consent. The practice of levirate marriage applied to widows of childless deceased husbands, but not to widowers of childless deceased wives. Laws concerning the loss of female virginity have no male equivalent. These and other gender inequalities found in the Torah suggest that women were subordinate to men during biblical times, however, they also suggest that biblical society viewed continuity, property, and family unity as paramount.[1] However, men had specific obligations they were required to perform for their wives. These included the provision of clothing, food, and sexual relations to their wives.[2]

Women also had a role in ritual life. Women (as well as men) were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year and offer the Passover sacrifice. They would also do so on special occasions in their lives such as giving a todah ("thanksgiving") offering after childbirth. Hence, they participated in many of the major public religious roles that non-levitical men could, albeit less often and on a somewhat smaller and generally more discreet scale.

Women depended on men economically. Women generally did not own property except in the rare case of inheriting land from a father who didn't bear sons. Even "in such cases, women would be required to remarry within the tribe so as not to reduce its land holdings."[1]

[edit] Talmudic times

Classical Jewish rabbinical literature contains quotes that may be seen as both laudatory and derogatory of women. The Talmud states that:

  • Greater is the reward to be given by the All-Mighty to the (righteous) women than to (righteous) men[3]
  • Ten measures of speech descended to the world; women took nine[4]
  • Women are light on raw knowledge — i.e. they possess more intuition[5]
  • A man without a wife lives without joy, blessing, and good; a man should love his wife as himself and respect her more than himself[6]
  • When Rav Joseph[who?] heard his mother's footsteps he would say: Let me arise before the approach of the divine presence[7]
  • Israel was redeemed from Egypt by virtue of its (Israel's) righteous women[8]
  • A man must be careful never to speak slightingly to his wife because women are prone to tears and sensitive to wrong[9]
  • Women have greater faith than men[10]
  • Women have greater powers of discernment[11]
  • Women are especially tenderhearted[12]

While few women are mentioned by name in rabbinic literature, and none are known to have authored a rabbinic work, those who are mentioned are portrayed as having a strong influence on their husbands, and occasionally having a public persona. Examples are Bruriah, the wife of the Tanna Rabbi Meir; Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva; and Yalta, the wife of Rabbi Nachman. Rabbi Eliezer's[who?] wife (of Mishnaic times) counselled her husband in assuming leadership over the Sanhedrin.

[edit] Middle Ages

Like most women in Europe, Jewish women in the Middle Ages had exclusively household roles and arranged marriages; child brides were common. Jewish women were generally prohibited from holding formal leadership roles with authority over men. Regarding European Jewry, Avraham Grossman wrote, "Throughout the Middle Ages, which continued for about a thousand years, we do not find so much as a single women of importance among the sages of Israel... Moreover, over a period of a thousand years, not a single Jewish woman wrote a halakhic, literary, theoretical, mystical, or poetic work, with the exception of a handful of poems written by Jewish women in Spain."[13] Middle Eastern Jewry, on the other hand, had an abundance of female literates. The Cairo Geniza is filled with correspondences written (sometimes dictated) between family members and spouses. Many of these letters are pious and poetic and express a desire to be in closer or more frequent contact with a loved one that is far enough away to only be reached by written correspondence. There are also records of wills and other personal legal documents as well as written petitions to officials in cases of spouse abuse or other conflicts between family members written or dictated by women.[14]

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, women became virtually the only source of Jewish ritual and tradition in the Catholic world in a phenomenon known as crypto-Judaism. Crypto-Jewish women would slaughter their own animals and made sure to keep as many of the Jewish dietary laws and life cycle rituals as possible without raising suspicion. Occasionally, these women were prosecuted by Inquisition officials for suspicious behavior such as lighting candles to honor the Sabbath or refusing to eat pork when it was offered to them. The Inquisition targeted crypto-Jewish women at least as much as it targeted crypto-Jewish men because women were accused of perpetuating Jewish tradition while men were merely permitting their wives and daughters to organize the household in this manner.[15]

[edit] Domestic law

Rabbeinu Gershom instituted a rabbinic decree (takhanah) prohibiting polygamy among Ashkenazic Jews. The rabbis instituted legal methods to enable women to petition a rabbinical court to compel a divorce. Maimonides ruled that a woman who found her husband "repugnant" could compel a divorce, "because she is not like a captive, to be subjected to intercourse with one who is hateful to her."[citation needed]

The rabbis also instituted and tightened prohibitions on domestic violence. Rabbi Peretz ben Elijah ruled, "The cry of the daughters of our people has been heard concerning the sons of Israel who raise their hands to strike their wives. Yet who has given a husband the authority to beat his wife?" Rabbi Rothberg ruled that "For it is the way of the Gentiles to behave thus, but Heaven forbid that any Jew should do so. And one who beats his wife is to be excommunicated and banned and beaten." Rabbi Rothenberg also ruled that a battered wife could petition a rabbinical court to compel a husband to grant a divorce, with a monetary fine owed her on top of the regular ketubah money. These rulings occurred in the midst of societies where wife-beating was legally sanctioned and routine.[13]

[edit] Religious developments

Religious developments included relaxation on prohibitions against teaching women Torah, and the rise of women's prayer groups in France and Germany.[citation needed] These changes were accompanied by increased pietistic strictures, including greater requirements for modest dress, and greater strictures during the period of menstruation. At the same time, there was a rise in philosophical and midrashic interpretations depicting women in a negative light, emphasizing a duality between matter and spirit in which femininity was associated, negatively, with earth and matter.[13]

The rise and increasing popularity of Kabbalah, which emphasized the shechinah and female aspects of the divine presence and human-divine relationship, and which saw marriage as a holy covenant between partners rather than a civil contract, had great influence. Kabbalists explained the phenomenon of menstruation as expressions of the demonic or sinful character of the menstruant.[16] Mystical understandings of what occurs to men's souls in the afterlife and on Shabbat differed significantly from what was understood about what occurs to women's souls.[17]

[edit] Present day

[edit] Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism sometimes prescribes different roles and religious obligations for men and women. There are different opinions among Orthodox Jews concerning these differences. Most claim that men and women have complementary, yet different roles in religious life, resulting in different religious obligations. A minority within the Orthodox tradition believe that some of these differences are not a reflection of religious law, but rather of cultural, social, and historical causes. In the area of education, women were historically exempted from any study beyond an understanding of the practical aspects of Torah, and the rules necessary in running a Jewish household – both of which they have an obligation to learn. Until the twentieth century, women were often discouraged from learning Talmud and other advanced Jewish texts. In the past 100 years, Orthodox Jewish education for women has advanced tremendously.[18]

Some Orthodox rabbis view contemporary efforts at change as motivated by sociological reasons and not by true religious motivation. They also view these suggested changes as a break with the accepted norms of observance, and do not allow women to engage in activities traditionally reserved for men.[19] For example, Orthodox, Haredi, and Hasidic rabbis discourage women from wearing a yarmulke, tallit or tefillin.

In most Orthodox synagogues, women do not give a d'var Torah (brief discourse, generally on the weekly Torah portion) after or between services. Furthermore, a few Modern Orthodox synagogues have mechitzot dividing the left and right sides of the synagogue (rather than the usual division between the front and back of the synagogue, with women sitting in the back), with the women's section on one side and the men's section on the other.[20] This is often seen as more equal since the women are not farther away from the service than the men.

[edit] Rules of modesty

The importance of modesty in dress and conduct is particularly stressed among girls and women in Orthodox society. Many Orthodox women only wear skirts and avoid wearing trousers, and some married Orthodox women cover their hair with a wig, hat, or scarf. Judaism prescribes modesty for both men and women.

[edit] Rules of family purity

In accordance with Jewish Law, Orthodox Jewish women refrain from contact with their husbands while they are menstruating, and for a period of 7 clean days after menstruating, and after the birth of a child. The Israeli Rabbinate has recently approved women acting as yoatzot, halakhic advisers on sensitive personal matters such as family purity.

[edit] Modern Orthodox Judaism

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a leader of profound influence in modern Orthodoxy in the United States, discouraged women from serving as presidents of synagogues or any other official positions of leadership,[citation needed] and from performing other mitzvot (commandments) traditionally performed by males exclusively, such as wearing a tallit or tefillin. Soloveitchik wrote that while women do not lack the capability to perform such acts, there is no mesorah (Jewish tradition) that permits it. In making his decision, he relied upon Jewish oral law, including a mishnah in Chulin 2a and a Beit Yoseph in the Tur Yoreh Deah stating that a woman can perform a specific official communal service for her own needs but not those of others.[21]

Women's issues garnered more interest with the advent of feminism. Many Modern Orthodox Jewish women and Modern Orthodox rabbis sought to provide greater and more advanced Jewish education for women. Since most Modern Orthodox women attend college, and many receive advanced degrees in a variety of fields, Modern Orthodoxy generally believes that their Jewish education should equal their secular education. An entire genre of Orthodox feminist literature now exists, and has caused changes within some Orthodox synagogues and communities (The Status of Women in Halakhic Judaism, Berman, Tradition, 14:2, 1973.). Orthodox girls' and women's Jewish education has expanded tremendously in the past 30 years. Of some controversy are the questions of whether girls and women should or may learn the Talmud. While most segments of Modern Orthodoxy ostensibly support women's education, the permissibility of Talmud study for women is not accepted among most of Modern Orthodoxy.

[edit] Women's prayer groups

Separate Jewish women's prayer groups were a sanctioned custom among German Jews in the Middle Ages. The Kol Bo provides, in the laws for Tisha B'Av:

And they recite dirges there for about a quarter of the night, the men in their synagogue and the women in their synagogue. And likewise during the day the men recite dirges by themselves and the women by themselves, until about a third of the day has passed.

In Germany, in the 12th and 13th centuries, women's prayer groups were led by female cantors. Rabbi Eliezar of Worms, in his elegy for his wife Dulca, praised her for teaching the other women how to pray and embellishing the prayer with music. The gravestone of Urania of Worms, who died in 1275, contains the inscription "who sang piyyutim for the women with musical voice." In the Nurnberg Memorial Book, one Richenza was inscribed with the title "prayer leader of the women."[22]

Orthodox women more recently began holding organized women's tefila (prayer) groups beginning in the 1970s. While no Orthodox legal authorities agree that women can form a minyan (prayer quorum) for the purpose of regular services, women in these groups read the prayers and study Torah. A number of leaders from all segments of Orthodox Judaism have commented on this issue, but it has had little impact on Haredi and Sephardi Judaism. However, the emergence of this phenomenon has enmeshed Modern Orthodox Judaism in a debate which still continues today. There are three schools of thought on this issue:

  • The most common view, held by some Modern Orthodox authorities, and most Haredi Rabbis, rules that all women's prayer groups are absolutely forbidden by halakha (Jewish law).[citation needed]
  • A second view maintains that women's prayer groups can be compatible with halakha, but only if they do not carry out a full prayer service (i.e., do not include certain parts of the service known as devarim she-bi-kdusha), and only if services are spiritually and sincerely motivated; they cannot be sanctioned if they are inspired by a desire to rebel against halakha. People in this group include Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapiro, former British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, and Rabbi Avi Weiss.[23]
  • A third view maintains argues in favor of the acceptability of calling women to the Torah in mixed services, and leading certain parts of the service which do not require a minyan, under certain conditions.[24][25]

[edit] Women as witnesses

Traditionally, women are not generally permitted to serve as witnesses in an Orthodox Beit Din (rabbinical court), although they have recently been permitted to serve as toanot (advocates) in those courts. This limitation has exceptions which have required exploration under rabbinic law as the role of women in society and the obligations of religious groups under external civil law have been subject to increasing recent scrutiny.[citation needed]

The recent case of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, the first rabbi to be expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America following allegations of sexual harassment, illustrated the importance of clarification of Orthodox halakha in this area. Rabbi Tendler claimed that the tradition of exclusion of women's testimony should compel the RCA to disregard the allegations. He argued that since the testimony of a woman could not be admitted in Rabbinical court, there were no valid witnesses against him, and hence the case for his expulsion had to be thrown out for lack of evidence. In a ruling of importance for Orthodox women's capacity for legal self-protection under Jewish law, Haredi Rabbi Benzion Wosner, writing on behalf of the Shevet Levi Beit Din (Rabbinical court) of Monsey, New York, identified sexual harassment cases as coming under a class of exceptions to the traditional exclusion, under which "even children or women" have not only a right but an obligation to testify, and can be relied upon by a rabbinical court as valid witnesses:

The Ramah in Choshen Mishpat (Siman 35, 14) rules that in a case where only women congregate or in a case where only women could possibly testify, (in this case the alleged harassment occurred behind closed doors) they can and should certainly testify. (Terumas Hadeshen Siman 353 and Agudah Perek 10, Yochasin)
This is also the ruling of the Maharik, Radvaz, and the Mahar"i of Minz. Even those "Poskim" that would normally not rely on women witnesses, they would certainly agree that in our case ... where there is ample evidence that this Rabbi violated Torah precepts, then even children or women can certainly be kosher as witnesses, as the Chasam Sofer pointed out in his sefer (monograph) (Orach Chaim T'shuvah 11)[26]

The Rabbinical Council of America, while initially relying on its own investigation, chose to rely on the Halakhic ruling of the Haredi Rabbinical body as authoritative in the situation.[citation needed]

[edit] Orthodox approaches to change

Leaders of the Haredi community have been steadfast in their opposition to a change in the role of women, arguing that the religious and social constraints on women, as dictated by traditional Jewish texts, are timeless and are not affected by contemporary social change. Many also argue that giving traditionally male roles to women will only detract from both women's and men's ability to lead truly fulfilling lives. Haredim have also sometimes perceived arguments for liberalization as in reality stemming from antagonism to Jewish law and beliefs generally, arguing that preserving faith requires resisting secular and "un-Jewish" ideas.

Modern Orthodox Judaism, particularly in its more liberal variants, has tended to look at proposed changes in the role of women on a specific, case-by-case basis, focusing on arguments regarding the religious and legal role of specific prayers, rituals and activities individually. Such arguments have tended to focus on cases where the Talmud and other traditional sources express multiple or more liberal viewpoints, particularly where the role of women in the past was arguably broader than in more recent times. Feminist advocates within Orthodoxy have tended to stay within the traditional legal process of argumentation, seeking a gradualist approach, and avoiding wholesale arguments against the religious tradition as such.[citation needed]

[edit] Conservative Judaism

Although the position of Conservative Judaism toward women originally differed little from the Orthodox position, it has in recent years minimized legal and ritual differences between men and women. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly has approved a number of decisions and responsa on this topic. These provide for women's active participation in areas such as:

  • Publicly reading the Torah (ba'al kriah)
  • Being counted as part of a minyan
  • Being called for an aliyah to read the Torah
  • Serving as a cantor (shalich tzibbur)
  • Serving as rabbi and halakhic decisor (posek - an arbiter in matters of religious law)
  • Wearing a tallit and tefillin

A rabbi may or may not decide to adopt particular rulings for the congregation; thus, some Conservative congregations will be more or less egalitarian than others. However, there are other areas where legal differences remain between men and women, including:

  • Matrilineal descent. The child of a Jewish mother is born Jewish; the child of a Jewish father is born Jewish if and only if the mother is Jewish.
  • Pidyon Ha-Bat, a proposed ceremony based on the biblical redemption of the eldest newborn son (Pidyon Ha-Ben). The CJLS has stated that this particular ceremony should not be performed. Other ceremonies, such as a Simchat Bat (welcoming a newborn daughter), should instead be used to mark the special status of a new born daughter. [CJLS teshuvah by Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik, 1993]

A Conservative Jewish ketuba includes a clause that puts a husband and wife on more equal footing when it comes to marriage and divorce law within halacha.[27]

The CJLS recently reaffirmed the obligation of Conservative women to observe niddah (sexual abstinence during and after menstruation) and mikvah (ritual immersion) following menstruation, although somewhat liberalizing certain details. Such practices, while requirements of Conservative Judaism, are not to be widely observed among Conservative laity.

[edit] Changes in the Conservative position

Prior to 1973, Conservative Judaism had more limited roles for women and was more similar to current Modern Orthodoxy, with changes on issues including mixed seating, synagogue corporate leadership, and permitting women to be called to the Torah. In 1973, the CJLS of the Rabbinical Assembly voted, without issuing an opinion, that women could count in a minyan. In 1983, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA) faculty voted, also without accompanying opinion, to ordain women as rabbis and as cantors.[27]

In 2002, the CJLS adapted a responsum by Rabbi David Fine, Women and the Minyan, which provides an official religious-law foundation for these actions and explains the current Conservative approach to the role of women in prayer.

In 2006, the CJLS adopted three responsa on the subject of niddah, which reaffirmed an obligation of Conservative women to abstain from sexual relations during and following menstruation and to immerse in a mikvah prior to resumption, while liberalizing observance requirements including shortening the length of the niddah period, lifting restrictions on non-sexual contact during niddah, and reducing the circumstances under which spotting and similar conditions would mandate abstinence.[28][29][30][31]

In all cases continuing the Orthodox approach was also upheld as an option. Individual Conservative rabbis and synagogues are not required to adopt any of these changes, and a small number have adopted none of them.

[edit] Conservative approaches to change

Prior to 1973, Conservative approaches to change were generally on an individual, case-by-case basis. Between 1973 and 2002, the Conservative movement adapted changes through its official organizations, but without issuing explanatory opinions. Since 2002, the Conservative movement has coalesced around a single across-the board approach to the role of women in Jewish law.[32]

In 1973, 1983, and 1993, individual rabbis and professors issued six major opinions which influenced change in the Conservative approach, the first and second Sigal, Blumenthal, Rabinowitz, and Roth responsa, and the Hauptman article. These opinions sought to provide for a wholesale shift in women's public roles through a single, comprehensive legal justification. Most such opinions based their positions on an argument that Jewish women always were, or have become, legally obligated to perform the same mitzvot as men and to do so in the same manner.[citation needed]

The first Sigal and the Blumenthal responsa were considered by the CJLS as part of its decision on prayer roles in 1973. They argued that women have always had the same obligations as men.[citation needed] The first Sigal responsum used the Talmud's general prayer obligation and examples of cases in which women were traditionally obligated to say specific prayers and inferred from them a public prayer obligation identical to that of men. The Blumenthal responsum extrapolated from a minority authority that a minyan could be formed with nine men and one woman in an emergency. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) declined to adopt either responsum. Rabbi Siegel reported to the Rabbinical Assembly membership that many on the CJLS, while agreeing with the result, found the arguments unconvincing.

The Rabinowitz, Roth, and second Sigal responsa were considered by the JTSA faculty as part of its decision to ordain women as rabbis in 1983. The Rabbinowitz responsum sidestepped the issue of obligation, arguing that there is no longer a religious need for a community representative in prayer and hence there is no need to decide whether a woman can halakhically serve as one. The CJLS felt that an argument potentially undermining the value of community and clergy was unconvincing: "We should not be afraid to recognize that the function of clergy is to help our people connect with the holy." The Roth and second Sigal responsa accepted that time-bound mitzvot were traditionally optional for women, but argued that women in modern times could change their traditional roles. The Roth responsum[33] argued that women could individually voluntarily assume the same obligations as men, and that women who do so (e.g. pray three times a day regularly) could count in a minyan and serve as agents. The JTSA accordingly required female rabbinical students wishing to train as rabbis to personally obligate themselves, but synagogue rabbis, unwilling to inquire into individual religiosity, found it impractical. The second Sigal responsum[34] called for a takkanah, or rabbinical edict, "that would serve as a halakhic ERA," overruling all non-egalitarian provisions in law or, in the alternative, a new approach to halakhic interpretation independent of legal precedents. The CJLS, unwilling to use either an intrusive approach or a repudiation of the traditional legal process as bases for action, did not adopt either and let the JTS faculty vote stand unexplained.

In 1993, Professor Judith Hauptman of JTS issued an influential paper [9] arguing that women had historically always been obligated in prayer, using more detailed arguments than the Blumenthal and first Sigal responsa. The paper suggested that women who followed traditional practices were failing to meet their obligations. Rabbi Roth argued that Conservative Judaism should think twice before adopting a viewpoint labeling its most traditional and often most committed members as sinners. The issue was again dropped.

In 2002, the CJLS returned to the issue of justifying its actions regarding women's status, and adopted a single authoritative approach, the Fine responsum,[35] as the definitive Conservative halakha on role-of-women issues. This responsum holds that although Jewish women do not traditionally have the same obligations as men, Conservative women have, as a collective whole, voluntarily undertaken them. Because of this collective undertaking, the Fine responsum holds that Conservative women are eligible to serve as agents and decision-makers for others. The Responsum also held that traditionally-minded communities and individual women could opt out without being regarded by the Conservative movement as sinning. By adopting this Responsum, the CJLS found itself in a position to provide a considered Jewish-law justification for its egalitarian practices, without having to rely on potentially unconvincing arguments, undermine the religious importance of community and clergy, ask individual women intrusive questions, repudiate the halakhic tradition, or label women following traditional practices as sinners.

[edit] Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism believes in the equality of men and women. The Reform movement rejects the idea that halakha (Jewish law) is the sole legitimate form of Jewish decision making, and holds that Jews can and must consider their conscience and ethical principles inherent in the Jewish tradition when deciding upon a right course of action. There is widespread consensus among Reform Jews that traditional distinctions between the role of men and women are antithetical to the deeper ethical principles of Judaism. This has enabled Reform communities to allow women to perform many rituals traditionally reserved for men, such as:

  • Publicly reading the Torah (ba'al kriah)
  • Being part of the minyan
  • Being called for an aliyah to read the Torah
  • Serving as a cantor (shalich tzibbur)
  • Serving as rabbi and halakhic decisor (posek)
  • Wearing a tallit and tefillin

Concerns about intermarriage have also influenced the Reform Jewish position on gender. In 1983, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution waiving the need for formal conversion for anyone with at least one Jewish parent who has made affirmative acts of Jewish identity. This departed from the traditional position requiring formal conversion to Judaism for children without a Jewish mother.[36]

The 1983 resolution of the American Reform movement has had a mixed reception in Reform Jewish communities outside of the United States. Most notably, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism has rejected patrilineal descent and requires formal conversion for anyone without a Jewish mother.[37]

[edit] Reform approaches to change

Reform Judaism generally holds that the various differences between the roles of men and women in traditional Jewish law are not relevant to modern conditions and not applicable today. Accordingly, there has been no need to develop legal arguments analogous to those made within the Orthodox and Conservative movements.

[edit] Reconstructionist Judaism

The equality of women and men is a central tenet and hallmark of Reconstructionist Judaism. From the beginning, Reconstructionist Jewish ritual allowed men and women to pray together — a decision based on egalitarian philosophy. It was on this basis that Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan called for the full equality of women and men, despite the obvious difficulties reconciling this stance with norms of traditional Jewish practice.[38] The Reconstructionist Movement ordained women Rabbi from the start.[39] In 1968, women were accepted into the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, under the leadership of Ira Eisenstein.[40] The first ordained female Reconstructionist rabbi, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, served as rabbi of the Manhattan Reconstructionist Congregation in 1976 and gained a pulpit in 1977 at Beth El Zedeck congregation in Indianapolis. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was accepted without debate or subsequent controversy.[41] In 2005, 24 out of the movement's 106 synagogues in the US had women as senior or assistant rabbis.[42]

The Reconstructionist Community began including women in the minyan and allowing them to come up to the Torah for aliyot. They also continued the practice of bat mitzvah.[43] Reconstructionist Judaism also allowed women to perform other traditional male tasks, such as serving as witnesses, leading services,[44] public Torah reading, and wearing ritual prayer garments like kippot and tallitot.[45] Female Reconstructionist rabbis have been instrumental in the creation of rituals, stories, and music that have begun to give women's experience a voice in Judaism. Most of the focus has been on rituals for life-cycle events.[46] New ceremonies have been created for births,[47] weddings, divorces, conversions,[48] weaning, and the onset of menarche and menopause. The Recontructionist movement as a whole has been committed to creating liturgy that is in consonance with gender equality and the celebration of women's lives.[49][50][51] Another major step: The Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations has also developed educational programs that teach the full acceptance of lesbians,[52] as well as rituals that affirm lesbian relationships.[53][54] In Canada, the reconstructionist Rabbis does officiate at same-sex wedding.[55] Reconstructionist Judaism allows gay men and women to be ordained as rabbis and cantors.

Several prominent members of the Reconstructionist community have focused on issues like domestic violence.[56][57][58][59] Others have devoted energy to helping women gain the right of divorce in traditional Jewish communities.[60][61] Many have spoken out for the right of Jewish women to pray aloud and read from the Torah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Women of the Wall group.[62]

When the roles of women in religion change, there may also be changed roles for men. With their advocacy of patrilineal descent in the 1970s, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association supported the principle that a man who takes responsibility for raising a Jewish child can pass Judaism on to the next generation as well as a woman. All children who receive a Jewish education are considered Jewish in Reconstructionist Judaism regardless of whatever is the sex of their Jewish parent.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Hauptman, Judith. "Women." Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary. Ed. David L. Lieber. The Jewish Publication Society, 2001. 1356-1359.
  2. ^ Telushkin, Joseph. Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1997. p. 403.
  3. ^ Berakhot 17a
  4. ^ Kiddushin 49b
  5. ^ Shabbat 33b
  6. ^ Yebamot 62b
  7. ^ Kiddushin 31b
  8. ^ Sotah 11b
  9. ^ Baba Metzia 59a
  10. ^ Sifre, 133
  11. ^ Niddah 45b
  12. ^ Megillah 14b
  13. ^ a b c Grossman, Avraham. Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe. Translated from the Hebrew by Jonathan Chapman. Brandeis University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58465-392-2
  14. ^ Levine Melammed, Renee. "Women in Medieval Jewish Societies." Women and Judaism: New Insights and Scholarship. Ed. Frederick E. Greenspahn. New York: New York University Press, 2009. 91-100.
  15. ^ Levine Melammed, 105-111.
  16. ^ Koren, Sharon Faye. "The Menstruant as 'Other' in Medieval Judaism and Christianity." Project MUSE. Spring 2009. 29 December 2011.
  17. ^ Rothstein, Alexandra. "Medieval Jewish Attitudes Toward Women." My Jewish Learning. 29 December 2011.
  18. ^ Handelman, Susan. "Feminism and Orthodoxy - What It's All About." Chabad Lubavitch. 25 December 2011.
  19. ^ Kress, Michael. "The State of Orthodox Judaism Today." Jewish Virtual Library. 25 December 2011.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Aharon Ziegler, Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Volume II, p. 81.
  22. ^ Grossman, Pious and Rebellious, pp. 180-182.
  23. ^ Israel's late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren may have ruled in 1974 that while women do not constitute a minyan, they may still carry out full prayer services. Goren later either clarified or retracted his view, stating that his writing was purely a speculative work published against his wishes, not intended as a practical responsum, and that in his view the actual halakha was in accord with the second school of thought, listed above.[2]
  24. ^ [3] PDF (972 KB)
  25. ^ [4] PDF (78.1 KB)
  26. ^ English summary at The Awareness Center: Case of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler. Original teshuvah (Responsum) (in Hebrew) at The Awareness Center: Harav Wosner's Teshuvah PDF (130 KB) (Note: parenthetical translations are added, parenthetical references are original)
  27. ^ a b Raphael, Marc Lee. Profiles in American Judaism: The Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist Traditions in Historical Perspective. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984. p. 110
  28. ^ Rabbi Miriam Berkowitz, Mikveh and the Sanctity of Family Relations, Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006
  29. ^ Rabbi Susan Grossman, MIKVEH AND THE SANCTITY OF BEING CREATED HUMAN, Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006
  30. ^ Rabbi Avram Reisner, OBSERVING NIDDAH IN OUR DAY: AN INQUIRY ON THE STATUS OF PURITY AND THE PROHIBITION OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY WITH A MENSTRUANT, Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006
  31. ^ Rabbi Miriam Berkowitz, RESHAPING THE LAWS OF FAMILY PURITY FOR THE MODERN WORLD, Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006
  32. ^ This section summarizes the CLJS's 2002 Fine "Women and the Minyan" [5] PDF (194 KB) Responsum's review and critique of prior CJLS efforts to adopt an authoritative responsum.
  33. ^ [6] PDF (161 KB)
  34. ^ [7] PDF (3.17 MB)
  35. ^ [8] PDF (194 KB)
  36. ^ Reform Movement's Resolution on Patrilineal Descent
  37. ^ Reform Judaism in Israel: Progress and Prospects
  38. ^ Who is a Reconstructionist Jew?, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/reconstruction.html , Jewish Virtuel Library, 2001.
  39. ^ Nadell, Pamela. Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination 1889-1985. editor Jewish Women's Life, Beacon Press, 1998. pages 187-188
  40. ^ Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0017_0_16542.html , Jewish Virtual Library. 2001.
  41. ^ Sandy Sasso ordained as first female Reconstructionist rabbi,This Week in History. Jewish Women's Archive. http://jwa.org/thisweek/may/19/1974/sandy-sasso
  42. ^ in Reconstructionist Judaism in the United States, Jewish Women's Archive, http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/reconstructionist-judaism-in-united-states
  43. ^ Sandy Eisenberg Sasso,Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Jewish Lights Publishing (Woodstock, Vermont), 1992.
  44. ^ Cantor Heather’ is a first for Reconstructionist shul, http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20569&Itemid=86 , Canadian Jewish News, 06 January 2011
  45. ^ One example in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oplgjEjts0 ,Darchei Noam Congregation, Toronto, Canada.
  46. ^ Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, The Voices of Children, Co-editor with Siddur Kol HaNoar, Reconstructionist Press, 2005
  47. ^ Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Call Them Builders: A Resource Booklet about Jewish Attitudes and Practices on Birth and Family Life, Reconstructionist Federation of Congregations and Havurot (New York)
  48. ^ Shefa, Sheri (August 2006). "Rabbi reaches out to interfaith couples as rates climb". Canadian Jewish News.http://joi.org/bloglinks/CJN Rabbi reaches out to interfaith couples as rates climb 8-24-06.pdf
  49. ^ This is reflected in the prayer books that have been published by the Reconstructionist movement
  50. ^ Female scribe to pen Reconstructionist shul’s new Torah, http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16953&Itemid=86, Canadian Jewish News, May 21, 2009.
  51. ^ Montreal congregation hires first female scribe to pen Torah in Canada, http://www.jewishtribune.ca/TribuneV2/index.php/200906031702/Montreal-congregation-hires-first-female-scribe-to-pen-Torah-in-Canada.html ,Jewish Tribune,3 June 2009.
  52. ^ See Rabbi Rebecca Alpert and Rabbi Toba Spitzer
  53. ^ Anne Lapidus Lerner in Jewish Women's Archive http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lerner-anne-lapidus
  54. ^ Radin, Charles A. First openly gay rabbi elected leader,http://www.boston.com/news/globe/city_region/breaking_news/2007/03/first_openly_ga.html , Boston Globe, March 13, 2007.
  55. ^ for Montreal https://www.dorshei-emet.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=92&Itemid=100
  56. ^ Gordon, Sheldon (21 April 2006) Billboards Focus on Jewish Domestic Violence, in Jewish Daily Forward http://www.forward.com/articles/1263/
  57. ^ Na'amat Canada, http://www.naamat.com/legalaid.htm
  58. ^ Springtide Resources, Wife Abuse in the Jewish Community, http://www.womanabuseprevention.com/html/jewish_community.html
  59. ^ Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, http://jcada.org/www/docs/4/
  60. ^ (French) Femmes et judaïsme - Des femmes veulent changer la loi juive concernant le divorce, http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/287572/femmes-et-judaisme-des-femmes-veulent-changer-la-loi-juive-concernant-le-divorce , Journal Le Devoir, 24 April 2010
  61. ^ Sonia Sarah Lipsyc ,http://soniasarahlipsyc.canalblog.com/
  62. ^ http://womenofthewall.org.il/?lang=he

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

General

Publications

  • Lilith Magazine a Jewish feminist journal
  • Women in Judaism on online peer-reviewed journal covering women in Judaism, with a special emphasis on history, but also including book reviews and fiction.

Particular issues

[edit] References

  • Women and Jewish Law: An Exploration of Women's Issue's in Halakhic Sources, Rachel Biale, Shocken Books, 1984
  • Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman's Voice Judith Hauptman, Westview Press, 1998
  • Women Who Would Be Rabbis Pamela S. Nadell, 1999 Beacon Press
  • On the Ordination of Women: An Advocate's Halakhic Response Mayer E. Rabbinowitz. In Simon Greenberg, ed., The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1988.
  • Women and Prayer: An Attempt to Dispel Some Fallacies, Judith Hauptman, Judaism 42 (1993): 94-103.
  • The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa, Simon Greenberg, ed. Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1988. ISBN 0-87334-041-8
  • Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender, Charlotte Fonrobert, Stanford University Press, 2000
  • The Moon's Lost Light: A Torah Perspective on Women from the Fall of Eve to the Full Redemption, Devorah Heshelis, Targum Press, 2006. ISBN 1-56871-377-0
  • Nadell, Pamela S., "Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination, 1889-1985" in Jewish Women's Life. Editor
  • Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, The Voices of Children, Co-editor with Siddur Kol HaNoar,

[edit] Orthodox Judaism and women

  • On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition Blu Greenberg, Jewish Publication Society
  • Orthodoxy Responds to Feminist Ferment, Berman, Saul J. Response, 40, 1981, 5:17.
  • Gender, Halakhaha and Women's Suffrage: Responsa of the First Three Chief Rabbis on the Public Role of Women in the Jewish State, Ellenson, David Harry. In: Gender Issues in Jewish Law (58-81) 2001.
  • Can the Demand for Change In the Status of Women Be Halakhically Legitimated? Tamar Ross, Judaism, 42:4, 1993, 478-491.
  • Feminism - A Force That Will Split Orthodoxy?, Reisman, Levi M. The Jewish Observer, 31:5, 1998, 37-47
  • Halakha and its Relationship to Human and Social Reality, Case Study: Women's Roles in the Modern Period, Ross, Tamar
  • In Case There Tamar Are No Sinful Thoughts: The Role and Status of Women in Jewish Law As Expressed in the Aruch Hashulhan, Fishbane, Simcha. Judaism, 42:4, 1993, 492-503.
  • Human Rights, Jewish Women and Jewish Law, Shenhav, Sharon. Justice, 21, 1999, 28-31.
  • On Egalitarianism & Halakha, Stern, Marc D. Tradition, 36:2, 2002, 1-30.
  • Women, Jewish Law and Modernity, Wolowelsky, Joel B. Ktav. 1997.
  • Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism, Ross, Tamar. Brandeis University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58465-390-6
  • Women at Prayer: A Halakhic Analysis of Women's Prayer Groups, Weiss, Avi, Ktav publishers, January 2003 ISBN 0-88125-719-2
  • Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism: Resistance and Accommodation. Hartman, Tova, Brandeis University Press, 2007. ISBN 1-58465-658-1.