Women as Rabbis: Transformations in the Contemporary American Reform Movement
Feminist scholarship, in recent decades, has exposed the patriarchal nature of Western history and tradition. Religious systems such as Judaism have evolved from an exclusively male perspective rather than an inclusive community experience. Men have been self appointed to the positions of historian and decision-maker. The end result is a system addressing the concerns of only a portion of its adherents. Problems within the Jewish tradition are manifested in three ways: Religiously, Historically, and Socially. Religiously - men have defined the tradition in relation to their own experiences. God is defined in male terms although God is beyond description. Rituals reaffirm male rites of passage but neglect female milestones: the birth of a girl; the onset of menstruation; menopause; These landmarks of women's lives go unrecognized. Women have been excludes from the process of creating tradition. Judaism is an expression of men's spirituality. Historically- Jewish history focuses mainly on important men within the tradition. The experiences of women in the past are unknown because they were edited out. Their voices have been lost in the void of time. Socially- Judaism, being more than just a religion, reflects certain social norms and attitudes. These social norms are reflected in the system of Jewish law which does not treat Jewish women as full participating Jews. Men are normative Jews, women are defined as "other than" the norm. The end result has been the alienation of Jewish women from the Jewish tradition. Repairing the problem of women's alienation within the tradition requires new interpretations of Jewish historical and religious texts ; an exploration of Jewish God-language; an evaluation of Jewish law; and the creation of new ritual expressio for women.
© Copyright 1991 Elissa Fay Schwartz