Gender and Religion: Gender and Judaism
GENDER AND RELIGION: GENDER AND JUDAISM
Feminist studies of gender and Judaism widely agree that, at least until the late 1970s, it is masculinity that has been almost exclusively generative of Judaism's authoritative religious and historical knowledge and leadership. Underpinning and perpetuating the secondary status of Jewish women are a male God, the male "founder," Abraham, and leader, Moses, a traditionally male rabbinical establishment historically subsequent to a hereditary male priesthood, and a male messiah in the times to come. Until the late twentieth century, most women (even those in relatively liberal circles) have known communal Judaism and Jewish thought from the perspective of the marginal other. Despite the existence of women of outstanding piety throughout Jewish history, and a very few instances of female scholars in the rabbinic and early modern periods particularly, women have not been the speaking subjects but the silent objects of Jewish discourse. They have not been the rabbinic commentators, decision makers, theologians, mystics, or philosophers. Matters concerning women have been discussed by male practitioners, usually in texts written by men and for men as problems or exceptions to what is normally the (masculine) case. The male Jew has been the normative Jew, and remains so in Orthodox communities. It is further arguable that recent change in the religious educational and devotional opportunities for Orthodox women is only to a degree and of a kind permitted by men within an essentially masculine dispensation.
Jewish Feminism and the Feminist Study of Religion
Judaism is founded on principles of justice and compassion that have driven social change through three millennia. It is therefore not surprising that the political impetus and methodological presupposition of the study of gender and Judaism have been loosely situated within the Jewish feminist movement and feminist criticism of intrareligious discrimination against Jewish women. The latter's foundational prophetic call that Judaism should institute an eleventh commandment—"Thou shalt not lessen the humanity of women"—that would be faithful to its own ethical judgment on the world remains as powerful a motivation today as it did when it was first articulated in 1979 by Cynthia Ozick.
Ozick's "eleventh commandment," which is intended more socially than theologically, nonetheless underpins all subsequent Jewish feminist theology. Jewish feminist theology is a critical theology that subjects Jewish texts, images, and practices to feminist analysis. In particular, it has been noted that biblical, rabbinic, and mystical Jewish theology includes images of the divine that are at least nominally feminine, such as Hochmah, Wisdom, and Shekhinah, the in-dwelling presence of God. The qabbalistic understanding of Shekhinah as a feminine element within God through whom God interacts with the world has recently been explored by Elliot Wolfson (1995). The mystical longing for a reunion of the male and the female elements within God has inspired Jewish feminists to envision the mending (tikkun ) of history and of the cosmos itself. The more gender-neutral terms for God, such as HaMakom (the Place) and HaShem (the Name), also help to ground Jewish feminist theological reflection in the tradition. However, Judaism is a practical religion before it is a doctrinal religion, and therefore few Jewish women would ascribe a central place to theology in feminist Jewish Studies.
But Jewish feminism, like other feminisms, has a first as well as second wave period. After the rise of Jewish modernity in the early nineteenth century, the Reform movement's insistence on the freedom to choose the type and degree of one's Jewish commitment led to the creation of several types of Jewish feminism interconnected by their emphasis upon justice and relational values. Before the Holocaust, Jewish women's proto-feminist or first wave activism was channeled through political, educational, and welfare organizations that were often maternalist in character. The second wave Jewish feminism of the late 1960s was as much the result of disenchantment with early twentieth-century Jewish politics in the trade union, communist, and Zionist movements in Europe and North America and in the new settlements in Palestine, all of whose political radicalisms had largely failed to offer women the leadership roles their rhetoric of equality had seemed to promise them. By the end of the 1980s Jewish feminism had become a significant movement found across the spectrum of observance, bar that of the more closed communities of Ultra-Orthodoxy.
The different types of Jewish feminism fall into three categories. Jewish feminism within modern Orthodoxy seeks to adapt Jewish law to better serve women's interests, though only so far as Torah might permit; liberal Jewish feminism seeks equality with Jewish men through the ethical reform of tradition; and ultra-liberal or "postmodern" Jewish feminism offers a woman-centered approach (as in Gottlieb, 1995) that might include elements of the contemporary Goddess feminist spirituality considered to be historically continuous with ancient Israelite women's syncretistic practice. However, Judaism has tended to be a practical and social religion before it has been a speculative one and the view that Jewish feminist goals will be achieved by halakhic reform rather than through a revised or reformed theology has predominated.
By the end of the twentieth century, the study of gender and Judaism was no longer as politicized as it had been through the 1970s and 1980s by the Jewish feminist project. The question of whether Judaism either oppresses or liberates women had given way to the more nuanced study of gendered and intra-gendered difference. Two key insights have tempered the recent feminist study of gender and Judaism. The first of these is the recognition that Jewish women's experience is historically, socially, geographically and culturally diverse. Second is the observation that throughout the history of Judaism, women have led different types of authentically Jewish lives within and sometimes despite the constraints of their gender roles. Since what a young Jewish woman from London or New York may consider liberating may not be what an older Jewish woman from a Kurdish or Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel might consider liberating, the study of gender and Judaism has had to ask more nuanced questions of its subjects and no longer presumes to judge on behalf of other (non-academic) women whether Judaism is a source of fulfillment for them or not. Western religious detraditionalization also contextualizes the study of gender and Judaism. The spiritual "turn to the self" and the shift in late modern religious observance into what is effectively a lifestyle choice are reflected in feminist studies of Judaism that are concerned with decentralizing the position of canonical texts and studying the individual woman as an autonomous religious agent, defining and controlling the meanings of a Jewish life for herself.
Inevitably, studies in gender and Judaism have sought to correct Jewish scholarship's obliviousness to its own traditionally male perspective and have focused instead on the neglected particularities of women's experience of and representation in Judaism and Jewish culture. However, it is important to note, as Daniel Boyarin (1997) has done, that the interrelation between Jewish constructions of masculine and feminine roles, virtues, and symbols is a complex one, and it is not only popular anti-Semitic discourse that has "feminized" male Jews. Judaism in the post-biblical Diaspora presented an ideal Jewish male whose receptivity and orientation towards the family has challenged and continues to challenge Western assumptions of masculine dominance and aggression and which has made him an object of desire for Jewish women. The ideal male Ashkenazic Jew in the years before the establishment of the State of Israel and still in some Ultra-Orthodox circles today, while never effeminate, has been studious, otherworldly, and compassionate. Jewish masculinity is not traditionally defined economically by a man's being the main breadwinner or by macho physical prowess, but by the prestige of his religious scholarship. The people of Israel have also been feminized in being cast as God's (sometimes adulterous) wife. Conversely, it is widely argued that the Israeli establishment has legitimized its militarism by "feminizing" diasporic victims of persecution, especially survivors of Nazism, and defining the male Jew as the tough Israeli soldier—a secular reincarnation of the Israelite warrior of the biblical period.
Jewish Women's History
Early Second Wave Jewish feminist historiography, in common with other such feminist historiographies, was something of an exercise in "contribution" history whose purpose was to rescue exceptional Jewish women's achievements from undeserved obscurity. Two such women who have become relatively well-known by these means are the nineteenth-century Hasidic female tsaddiq (a Hasidic leader noted for piety and learning) Hannah Rachel Verbermacher (also known as the Maid of Ludmir) and Regina Jonas, who in 1935, before her death in Auschwitz, was privately ordained as a Reform rabbi. Gradually, however, Jewish feminist historiography has yielded a sense not only of the contributions of women but also of the precedent and diversity of their experience, enabling scholars to question received periodizations of Jewish history and to redraw the boundaries of Jewish tradition.
The historiography of Jewish women begins with that of the biblical period. The picture that emerges from a wealth of popular and scholarly publications on the historical and literary roles of women in the Hebrew Bible is a mixed one of female vulnerability, oppression, rivalry, deceit, courage, loyalty, and wit. The picture changes over time as monarchical government replaces the political dispensation of ancient Israel around 1050 bce. In some narratives, the Bible suggests that women in ancient Israel could, even if only exceptionally, enjoy the roles of prophet (such as Miriam in Exodus 15:20, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14, and Noadiah in Nehemiah 6:14); judge, prophet, and military leader (such as Deborah in Judges 4–5); and wise women (such as the "witch" of En-Dor in 1 Samuel 28:3–25). The bonds of loyalty between women are poignantly expressed in Ruth 1:16–19, and the power of sisterly solidarity in the story of the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27). Yet other narratives present highly sexualized images of female power as seductive rather than authoritative, as in the story of Jael in Judges 4:17–22 and in the stories of the matriarchs, where women are the biological rather than religio-political movers of Jewish redemption history and the narrative emphasis is on the birth and lineage of sons, not daughters.
Rather differently, scholars on the Jewish academic and spiritual left have used biblical texts and archaeological studies of the ancient Middle East to show that Israelite religious practice—especially that of women who were gradually excluded from the public cult of Yahweh during the monarchical period—was syncretistic and accommodated the local goddess cult of Asherah (see 2 Kings 23:7). This body of research has funded feminist theological moves towards more gender-inclusive models of the Jewish God.
In its study of the post-biblical period, Jewish feminist historiography, like Jewish feminist anthropology, has challenged the normativity and centrality of halakhic Judaism in androcentric Jewish studies by noting the many local exceptions to its rule. Despite periods of intense persecution and ghettoization, Jewish women's lives have been led in complex interaction with non-Jewish religious and cultural communities. Ross Kraemer, for example, has argued that although Hellenization is generally regarded by Jewish historians in a negative light, diasporic Jewish communities in this era may have been less sexually segregated than later ones and may have offered (elite) women more access to public life than those more closely regulated by rabbinic law. Bernadette Brooten's now classic research into Greek and Latin inscriptions (1982) suggesting that women held leadership positions in late antiquity has also fuelled the argument that the legislation of gender roles in rabbinic law and custom has not necessarily prevailed in all parts and periods of the Jewish world. More generally, since Jewish studies has privileged the study of formal, communal masculine practice over female religious practice, feminist historians such as Chava Weissler (1998) have attended to how women have effectively integrated their ordinary relational and practical concerns with their spirituality and messianic hopes.
The study of gender and the Holocaust has been gaining momentum and prominence since the mid 1980s. Feminist historians have shown that the "Final Solution" was not gender-blind; women's gender-specific experience of the Holocaust cannot be subsumed into that of men. Without in any sense ranking women's suffering above men's, feminist historians such as Joan Ringelheim and Myrna Goldenberg were among the first to ask how Nazism placed Jewish women in "double jeopardy" as objects of both its anti-Semitism and its misogyny so that they endured, in Myrna Goldenberg's well-known phrase, "different horrors in the same hell." As mothers of future Jewish generations and less adaptable to the grueling physical requirements of slave labor than men, women and their children were the immediate targets of the Nazi genocide. Although women's chances of survival were generally greater in the early years of the Holocaust, by 1942 women were more likely than men to be deported to the death camps where, especially if pregnant or accompanied by children, women were also more likely than men to be selected for immediate death. Diverse recent studies (such as those of Nechama Tec  and Melissa Raphael ) have explored the ethical, spiritual, and theological dimensions of women's resistance to dehumanization through care of others during the Holocaust.
The Role and Status of Women in Rabbinic Judaism
The corpus of rabbinic law and ethics in the Mishnah and, later, the Talmud, was complete by approximately 700 ce. This literature is not of merely antiquarian interest: through continual reinterpretation it has continued to provide a religious framework that regulates, if to widely varying degrees, the familial, economic, and social life of the whole Jewish community other than that of secular Jewry.
Rabbinic Judaism's understanding of the female role as one centered around the marital home can be summarized in the three positive commandments (sometimes regarded as punitive reminders of Eve's disobedience) that remain women's gender-specific obligations in Orthodox Judaism today. These are to light the Sabbath candles (nerot ), to separate and burn a portion of the dough when baking the Sabbath loaf (hallah ), and to observe the laws of menstrual or family purity that regulate physical contact between husbands and wives (niddah ). Women are also obligated to observe the Sabbath, the dietary laws, and all other halakhic prohibitions.
There is no doubt that rabbinic literature contains misogynistic texts that enumerate women's supposed vices, derogate them as sources of sexual temptation and menstrual impurity, classify them as subordinated, immature, or defective others, and show a marked preference for the birth of sons over daughters. In rabbinic Judaism, women's testimony is generally inadmissible in a religious court as it is classed with, among others, that of minors, slaves, and the deaf and the blind. (Though since the 1951 Equality of Women's Rights Act in Israel, at least there has been some easing of the disqualification under Israeli civil law.)
Nonetheless, Judith Romney Wegner (1994) has shown that the late second-century Mishnah does not accord the same status to women throughout their lives, and it distinguishes between dependent girls and wives and relatively autonomous women, the latter being those divorcees, widows, and unmarried adult daughters who could control their property and arrange their own marriages, relatively free of male authority. While rabbinic patriarchy subordinates women to men and has on this and other grounds been rejected by liberal Jews as archaic, rabbinic Judaism is, then, more flexible than might be immediately apparent.
Admittedly on its own terms, rabbinic law respects the practical, emotional, and embodied interests of women and accords them rights to finance, medical care, and sexual satisfaction. Most notably, rabbinic law adjusted the more rudimentary biblical law so as to better protect women's interests. The classic case of a Western rabbinic ruling that broke with biblical and previous rabbinic law (a takkanah ) was the ban on polygyny (actually already sharply in decline) ascribed to Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah in the tenth century ce. (Orthodox feminism regards this takkanah as a precedent for sexually egalitarian proposals that appear to abrogate the law.) Other takkanot ascribed to Gershom ben Yehudah also tempered the inequalities of biblical marital practice, especially arbitrary divorce against a woman's will and without financial settlement. The rabbis were also generally opposed to wife-beating and permitted contraception to wives in certain medical circumstances. Although "acquired" from their fathers, wives are not, under rabbinic law, the purchased property of husbands; it is rather that marriage makes them unavailable to other men. Although, to this day, Orthodox Jewish law gives men alone the right to initiate divorce since it was they who have created the marriage bond, the ketubah or marriage "contract" describes a husband's financial and other duties to his wife. The case of the agunah or "anchored" woman who no longer lives with a husband who will not grant her a divorce is, however, an inequality to which some Orthodox rabbis have sought to provide solutions and against which feminists are still campaigning.
Generally speaking, the degree to which legal alleviation of sexual discrimination is permissible varies according to whether the community understands the whole Torah—written and oral—as the direct ordination and self-revelation of God (the Orthodox and especially Ultra-Orthodox view) or as divinely inspired but historically conditioned and of human authorship (the Reform perspective).
The Role and Status of Women in Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy—itself a spectrum of observance and cultural orientation—broadly continues to resist any construal of gender equality other than that summarized by the apologetic formulation "equal but different." Largely excluded from active participation in public ritual, women's traditional role is a supporting, enabling one (see BT Berakhot, 17a). Men and women's religious practice and orientation is considered complementary. Women are, by custom, not law, responsible for nurturing a sense of Jewishness in young children and for the infusion of a Jewish atmosphere and peace (shalom bayit ) into the home. (Indeed, sociologists have sometimes argued that Jewish women's emotional and practical investment in family identity and continuity has made them rather less susceptible to secularization and assimilation than men.)
With certain important exceptions, such as eating unleavened bread at Pesach or reading the Megillah at the festival of Purim, Orthodoxy exempts women from those positive commandments whose observance is ordained for a specific time. So, for example, a woman is obligated to pray, but not at the times set for certain prayers and services. A woman's presence cannot be counted towards the quorum of ten men required for communal prayer. The classic rationale for such gendered exemptions or cultural prohibitions-in-effect can be either pragmatic or theological. Pragmatically, since women's first duties are to the welfare of husbands and children, the performance of religious duties cannot also be expected of them. Theologically, appeal may be made to the divine ordination of the gendered economy. Critics, however, have claimed that women's exemption from most time-bound positive commandments effectively privatizes a woman's religious life and subordinates her spirituality to the material needs of others. That women have also been strongly discouraged from the observance of certain commandments, such as those of religious study, that are not time-bound has also been questioned.
In response to such criticism, Orthodox commentators point out that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce, Jewish sacred space relocated from the Temple to the home, study house, and synagogue. As a locus of the holy, the post-biblical home has sacralized a woman's religio-domestic labor, namely the sustenance of relationships with her husband and children, her maintenance of a kosher kitchen, and her preparation for the Sabbath and other home-based religious festivals. Orthodox women's lives are, arguably, comprehensively spiritualized by their observance of halakhah (daily law) since this regulates rather than denigrates bodily needs and appetites.
Although regarded with skepticism by most feminists as a compensatory rhetorical strategy that safeguards male dominance and impoverishes Jewish women's religious lives, Ultra-Orthodox apologetics also consider women to be on a higher and more intuitive spiritual plane than men who must therefore shoulder a greater burden of religious duty in order to approach God. After the manner of the virtuous, tireless woman (eshet chayil) of Proverbs 31, wives are idealized or—from the Ultra-Orthodox perspective—esteemed as those whose "innate" spirituality needs no special training and allows them a more immediate relation to God.
While the requirements of feminine modesty (tzniut ) may be interpreted by feminists as a means of controlling female sexuality, the traditional Jewish attitude toward sex is not prudish. While some periods of Jewish history have produced male devotional groups with ascetic tendencies, sexual abstinence plays no role in contemporary Jewish spirituality; celibacy is not considered vocational or meritorious, and men (not women) are commanded to procreate. In Hebrew, marriage (kiddishin ) means sanctification, and marital sexuality is a sign and symbol of the covenant of love between God and Israel. Of course, Orthodox Judaism imposes clear moral restraints upon the sexual urge, and its satisfaction is exclusively heterosexual and marital. Nonetheless, pleasure is both legitimate and desirable. Men are obligated to satisfy the sexual needs of their wives. Indeed, the rabbinic laws of onah (women's sexual rights) schematize the husband's religious obligation to give regular sexual satisfaction to his wife. While he must never force himself upon her, she is entitled to sexual pleasure regardless of whether she is fertile, pregnant, or postmenopausal.
Only the most traditional of Orthodox Jewish women observe the laws of menstrual purity that require the physical separation, but not the seclusion, of women from men for roughly twelve days a month—as well as a period following the birth of a child (fourteen days followed by a further sixty-six days for a girl, and half of that—seven days plus thirty-three days—for a boy). While a boy child enters into the covenantal relation between God and the people of Israel by circumcision on the eighth day after birth, the birth of girl children is now usually celebrated in synagogue on her first Sabbath, though it is the father who recites the blessing of thanksgiving.
The laws of sexual segregation in worship intensified from the end of the third century of the common era and are still observed to varying degrees in Orthodox communities. Among the Ultra-Orthodox, there is also sexual segregation at communal celebrations that would involve the social mixing of men and women. While Judaism does not require the seclusion of women in the home (especially not in communities residing in non-Islamic countries), the vocation of Ultra-Orthodox women is largely confined to the rearing of large families and, in some cases, to paid work within the community where women may be employed to teach or care for young children. Orthodoxy does not necessarily confine women to the private sphere insofar as the customary equation of the private and domestic spheres does not straightforwardly apply to religious Jewish life. The domestic, familial sphere is not that of women alone: men practice Judaism in the domestic sphere, as well as in the public spheres of worship and study. In Judaism, the private sphere is essentially the secular sphere of the individual, while it is the religio-communal sphere of ritual, congregational, and legal leadership that is the public one. This means that Orthodox Jewish women have historically undertaken paid work and conducted business in the secular public sphere since this is classed as a private transaction.
Perhaps what is most significant to the study of gender and Judaism is the gendered inequality of power signaled by the language of male permission in relation to change; Orthodox women remain the dependent objects of male rulings. For the foreseeable future at least, it seems unlikely that Orthodoxy will permit systemic change as that would entail no less than a reconfiguration of divinely ordained gender roles in the Jewish home and family that would be considered inimical to the revelation and spirit of biblical and rabbinic tradition.
The matter can be summarized as follows. On the one hand, the revitalization of Orthodoxy in resistance to secular modernity has seen the reinforcement of an ideology of traditional sexual complementarity and an emphasis on the role of the Jewish family in rebuilding the worldwide Jewish community after the Holocaust. As Lyn Davidman points out (1991), this re-inscription of gender difference has been strongly supported by Orthodox women who can find stability, security, identity, continuity, authenticity, and respect for motherhood and homemaking in conservative ideologies of Jewish femininity. On the other hand, and irrespective of the conflict between traditional and progressive Jews over the role of women in Judaism, concerns for the survival of Judaism have focused Orthodox attention on giving women just some of the communal roles and responsibilities the contemporary Western sexual-political climate would lead them to expect.
Gender and Jewish Education
As itself an act of worship, the study of Torah is integral, not supplementary, to Jewish practice. In post-biblical Judaism, where study of the Torah replaced cultic worship as the means of knowing and observing God's commandments, it has been the father's obligation to teach his son Torah. Just as women were not priests, so too they were not to be scholars. By custom rather than law, women were and are urged to induct children, especially girls, into the ambience and domestic practicalities of the tradition. Women and girls are exempt from the study of Torah on the grounds that women are exempt from acts that a father is obligated to undertake for his son, namely teaching him Torah (BT Kiddushin 29a). In fact, the Talmud records some disagreement over Rabbi Eliʿezer's somewhat extreme opinion that the education of girls unravels the meaning of Torah into nonsense or obscenity, and it records the names of several learned rabbinical wives and daughters, best known of whom was Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meʾir of the second century ce.
The religious educational opportunities for girls and women are clearly not equal to men's. Yet the degree of gendered inequality has differed according to women's class, economic standing, geographical location, and historical period. Scholarly Jewish women in the wealthy Sephardic families of the early modern period were, for example, more numerous than those of affluent Ashkenazic families in central and eastern Europe who, as the centuries progressed, were more inclined to offer girls a high level of secular rather than religious education.
It is not only feminist criticism that has produced a widespread change in attitudes toward women's religious education across the spectrum of Jewish Orthodoxy. It is also recognized by Orthodoxy that arresting the widespread contemporary decline in Jewish observance and population is in part at least dependent on women's informed commitment. To prevent the influence of secular values (especially those of Jewish feminism, which is widely misread as a secular project), the end of the twentieth century saw Orthodoxy making new provision of role-specific religious education for women—one that was both a product and cause of Jewish women's increased historical, textual, and linguistic competence in Judaism. (Note though, that like Ultra-Orthodox men, Ultra-Orthodox women do not normally participate in secular higher education.)
Orthodoxy is now seeking to redress some of the gendered inequalities of opportunity in Jewish religious education, though not to remove them entirely. In contemporary Israel, the cultural and economic influence of American Jewry has encouraged the establishment of religious educational establishments offering Jewish women from all over the world opportunities to study to ever higher levels of halakhic competence and to train as advocates for other women in religious courts, particularly in cases of divorce. A more advanced Jewish education has also enabled women to conduct prayer services even if modesty requires those to be conducted only for other women. However, such services are still not permitted in synagogues in Great Britain and parts of the American Orthodox community. Women in Orthodox communities are also not called up to recite the blessings accompanying the chanting of a portion of the Torah or to read from the Torah itself, since that might suggest that the men of the community are not proficient to do so.
Reform and Conservative Movements
The religious emancipation of Jewish women in liberal Jewish communities was subsequent to the humanistic ethic of Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and to the civic emancipation of Western European Jewry. Over time, women in Reform communities have come to enjoy equal access to positions of educational and synagogal leadership and full participation in Jewish rites of passage. Since 1972 in the United States and 1975 in Britain, women have been ordained as rabbis. In the United States, the Conservative movement—a middle way between Orthodoxy and Reform—has also gradually instituted the equality of women and men and has given women access to rabbinical training since 1983. However, Conservative Judaism has a greater concern for maintaining continuities with Jewish law, and its congregations vary in their attitude to change. Other than in the most progressive communities on the liberal spectrum, marriage and ordination are still refused to Jewish lesbians and gay men.
Sexist language has been either tempered or eliminated from liberal liturgies, though the evocation of the divine as "God-She" remains controversial in all but the alternative quarters of progressive Judaism. As well as giving women equal access to the rituals marking religious maturity (bar mitzvah for boys, bat mitzvah for girls) new rituals have been devised in Britain and the United States by women rabbis and others to change the self-image and consciousness of women. Such rituals solemnize gender-distinctive life-changing events—whether these be traumas such as mastectomy or miscarriage or celebrations such as menarche and childbirth—to which the tradition, so often concerned with the ownership and control of women's sexuality and reproductivity, has not previously attended. Despite such attention to female difference there has been some feminist concern that in gaining equality with men, Reform and Conservative Jewish women have become, in effect, honorary men, while men have not become honorary women. The most prominent leadership roles are also still most commonly held by men, partly in ecumenical deference to the Orthodox community, with whom Reform and Conservative Judaism wishes to maintain cooperation and dialogue.
Adler, Rachel. Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Philadelphia, 1998. Offers strategies for practical rereadings of traditional Jewish texts, with an emphasis on the theological reformulation of Jewish law, liturgy, and sexual ethics.
Baskin, Judith, ed. Jewish Women in Historical Perspective. 2d ed. Detroit, Mich., 1998. A collection of essays exploring Jewish women's history within Jewish and non-Jewish cultural and intellectual milieus from the biblical period through to twentieth-century North America.
Biale, Rachel. Women and Jewish Law. New York, 1995. A now classic study of halakhic views of issues relating to women.
Boyarin, Daniel. Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man. Berkeley, Calif., 1997. Shows how the construction of Jewish masculinity counters Western gender stereotypes.
Brooten, Bernadette, J. Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background Issues. Chico, Calif., 1982.
Davidman, Lyn. Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. Berkeley, Calif., 1991. Examines the appeal of Orthodoxy to contemporary American Jewish women.
El-Or, Tamar. Educated and Ignorant: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Women and Their World. Boulder, Colo., and London, 1994. Argues that Ultra-Orthodox women's education is designed not to liberate women but to perpetuate deference to male authority.
El-Or, Tamar. Next Year I Will Know More: Literacy and Identity Among Young Orthodox Women in Israel. Detroit, Mich., 2002. Explores the feminist dynamic and socioreligious effect of the sharp increase in Judaic study among young women in Orthodox Zionist communities.
Fuchs, Esther. Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative: Reading the Hebrew Bible as a Woman. Sheffield, U.K., 2000. Explores how the biblical text legislates and authorizes women's subordination and secures the power and interests of men.
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Goldman, Karla. Beyond the Synagogue Gallery: Finding a Place for Women in American Judaism. Cambridge, Mass., 2000.
Gottlieb, Lynn. She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism. San Francisco, 1995.
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Hauptman, Judith. Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman's Voice. Boulder, Colo., 1998. Acknowledging the patriarchal nature of Bible and Talmud, Hauptman argues that the Talmudic rabbis significantly improved the rights and status of women, particularly with regard to marriage and inheritance.
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Neusner, Jacob. Androgynous Judaism: Masculine and Feminine in the Dual Torah. Macon, Ga., 1993. Argues that while Torah is not sexually egalitarian it nonetheless valorizes female virtues as proper not only to women but also to the male relationship of subordination and obedience to God.
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Peskowitz, Miriam, and Laura Levitt, eds. Judaism Since Gender. New York, 1997. Engages the postmodern turn in studies of gender and Judaism.
Plaskow, Judith. Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. New York, 1990. A now classic revisioning of Judaism from a non-Orthodox feminist perspective.
Raphael, Melissa. The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust. London and New York, 2003. Renders Jewish women's Holocaust witness theologically audible by correlating their memoirs with a feminist reading of the post-Holocaust theological corpus and the wider Jewish tradition.
Ringelheim, Joan. "The Unethical and the Unspeakable: Women and the Holocaust." Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual (1984): 69–87. Ringelheim later substantially revised the views she expressed in this foundational paper.
Rittner, Carol, and John Roth, eds. Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust. New York, 1993. Includes methodological reflection, editorial commentary, and excerpts from the women's Holocaust memoir literature.
Rothschild, Sylvia, and Sybil Sheridan, eds. Taking Up the Timbrel: The Challenge of Creating Ritual for Jewish Women Today. London, 2000. Women rabbis transpose traditional Jewish liturgies into new political, biological, and emotional contexts, marking the women's experiences that have not previously been engaged by traditional prayer and ritual.
Ruttenberg, Danya, ed. Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism. Seattle, Wash., 2001. Young writers engage contemporary ecological, cultural, political, and medical issues from a "third wave" Jewish feminist perspective.
Schely Newman, Esther. Our Lives Are But Stories: Narratives of Tunisian-Israeli Women. Detroit, Mich., 2002. Offers theoretical reflection on the life stories of four Tunisian-Israeli women, usefully correcting the Ashkenazic focus of much of the study in gender and Judaism.
Shokeid, Moshe. A Gay Synagogue in New York. Philadelphia, 2003. An ethnography of Beth Simchat Torah in New York, the largest gay and lesbian synagogue in the United States.
Tec, Nechama. Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust. New Haven, Conn., and London, 2003. Uses oral and other sources to study how gender shaped patterns of resistance among Jews in the ghettos, camps, and partisan groups.
Umansky, Ellen, and Dianne Ashton, eds. Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality: A Sourcebook. Boston, 1992. An anthology of historic and contemporary texts including Jewish women's rituals, prayers, diary entries, poems, and other forms of spiritual reflection.
Wegner, Judith Romney. Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah. New York, 1988. Crucial to our understanding of early Jewish patriarchy, Wegner observes that in some circumstances second-century Mishnaic Judaism regards unmarried adult women, such as divorcees and most widows, as full legal persons. However, on account of their sexual reproductivity, girls and married women are the property of, and subject to the jurisdiction of, fathers and husbands respectively.
Weissler, Chava. Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women. Boston, 1998.
Wolfson, Elliot. Circle in the Square: Studies in the Use of Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism. Albany, N.Y., 1995.
Melissa Raphael (2005)