Jewish Feminist Thought

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jewish womanThis self-conscious approach to gender has been adopted by Jewish feminist academics, as well. In the view of these scholars, our knowledge of what Judaism is has also been fundamentally shaped by a male perspective, because the producers of this knowledge have been, for the most part, men. Like Adler, these scholars recommend employing gender as an interpretative tool--both to better understand the history of Jewish women and to counter gender-biased historical narratives.

This method has not exposed only misogyny and women's exclusion. Scholars like Tikva Frymer‑Kensky (reading the Bible) and Judith Hauptman (interpreting rabbinic sources) have found that, in many ways, ancient Israelite views of women were more positive than those in other ancient Near Eastern societies.

In discussing Jewish feminist thought, special mention must be made of conversations about the nature--and names--of God. For the most part, traditional Jewish texts refer to God using male pronouns and imagery. Jewish feminists have responded to this in a number of ways.

Some suggest eliminating male and female pronouns for the divine, while others recommend alternating their usage. Some choose to emphasize traditional Jewish imagery that can be connected with the feminine--e.g., the Shekhinah, God's indwelling presence, or the Source of Life--while others have advocated adopting new feminine imagery, including ancient Israelite goddess imagery.

Contemporary Jewish feminist thought covers a wide range of approaches, including the classical Jewish feminist models described here, affirmations of traditional gender roles and God language as consistent with feminism, and analyses of gender in Judaism as it affects and is reflected in the lives, depictions, and practices of both men and women. 

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