Sunday, January 3, 2010

Women and Judaism....

So, the owner of "Converts to Orthodox Judaism Support Group"

has asked me to write something about women and Judaism. Oy! Here goes...

When I first started my conversion, I tried to study this. As a woman, I wanted to find my place as a future Jewish woman. I started by reading, "Jewish and Female" by Susan Schneider... I found it to be too far to the left. I was give a free "Lilith" magazine. This was also too far to the left. So, then I read, Lisa Aiken's, "To Be a Jewish Woman" which I found to be too far to the right for me.

Coming into the world of Judaism is, I think, much harder for a woman than it is for a man. There are more things that a Jewish man does, however, the life of a Jewish man is more structured. Coming into one's own as a Jewish woman when you are converting in is particularly trying. There is no one to ask questions of. Perhaps you find a woman to as... only she is not in your community. Often I needed desperately to know, "do women do this?" it starts at that time but, "when do women come?" Furthermore, most of the women where I was, either didn't even know where they were in a siddur and they could not follow the service or they wanted that badly not to tell me. Another frustration is that there often are not siddurim in the women's section.

There is this big pressure on the modern Jewish woman that she should be able to support the family so that her husband does not work but learns Torah all day. I have strong feelings against this which I have blogged about.

Personally, I accepted the notion that women don't do anything. I say, "instead of seeing the 'women can't,' I embrace the 'women don't have to.'"


  1. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    There's a fair amount of historical-sociological material that backs you up entirely on the question of the woman supporting the family while the man learns full-time. It can be clearly traced as a recent innovation, and in the past was only for the very select few.

    The reason we hear about thi situation with Rabbi Akiva and Rachel is because it was an exception that plays against the rule. Sort of like having a one-armed gunslinger in a movie--it plays off the classical image to make a point.

    There is also the continual rewriting of the obvious halacha (don't make a living from Torah, the husband's ketuba obligation to support his wife, etc, etc) in order to support a not-so-eternal status quo, which has become a feature of contemporary haredi life.

    The modern Western world has an obsession with "equality=sameness" that has been messing things up for women and men over the last 30 years. Judaism has a subtle and accrued tradition that generally accommodates both the average and the exceptional woman. I would recommend you get your hands on anything by Esther Shkopf (I hope I'm spelling that right) at the Teachers' Institute in Skokie. She is brilliant, scholarly, haimish, and totally confident in her place in the mesorah. She also has a wide range of female role models in her family history that Yated would never touch.

  2. "There's a fair amount of historical-sociological material that backs you up entirely on the question of the woman supporting the family while the man learns full-time."

    Like in the Talmud, first take a piece of land and learn a trade and then take a wife. Or that a father who doesn't teach his son a trade teaches him to steal.... I'm aware that this is soooooooo wrong. This was the problem with the Aiken book. She recommended that the woman support her husband even after acknowledging that men are obligated in the kesubah to support us.

    Also, I think I read one of her dating books and there was this idea that you only date people who don't have a real problem. This is the kind of thing that makes a shidduch crisis.