Essay: Women in Judaism: An Evolving

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[. . .] The minyan has been defended by Jewish leaders by a belief that men tend to need lessons in community building in order to thrive in a communal situation. As such, Judaism believes that the exclusion of women from the minyan is not based in discrimination but in the fostering of values and community relationships for Jewish men.

Many Jewish leaders have noted that women who seek to dissolve the minyan or push toward the inclusion of women are merely seeking to unnecessarily and selfishly seize such an opportunity for the males in their synagogue. Many Jewish individuals -- especially men -- believe that men need the role in the minyan for their respective spiritual completion, saying that without their presence in the minyan, their religious beliefs would not be as fulfilled. Therefore, they believe that any woman who would wish to take this opportunity away from men is going against the fundamental teachings of the Jewish religion and an act of selfishness -- not spirituality.

Women are not permitted to take part in as many commandments as men and they are certainly not able to hold positions of power within the synagogue, but this is the way that it has always been in Judaism, and few women have stood up to confront it. Throughout the course of history, many women have stood up to the restrictions that the Jewish faith has placed upon them as well as those who have spoken out in order to ensure that women are always treated equally in the eyes of Judaism as they are in the eyes of God. There are many noted women who have gained a public position in order to bring positive light on Judaism as well as to ensure that the faith is respected and renowned for years to come.

Jewish Women who Broke the Mold

Throughout the course of history, many Jewish woman have stepped into public view and have shed light on the values that their Jewish faith has provided them, as well as made mention of how a Jewish cultural and faith-based existence has shaped them into the women they are. From the Supreme Court of the United States to Hollywood to the medical field and everywhere in between, Jewish women have long made their mark on the world while keeping a firm hold on the Jewish values that shaped them as individuals and as women. In viewing just a few of these notable women and in understanding the value which they place upon their faith, it becomes easy to see that no Jewish women must feel held back by the notion that they are below men, for this is not the teaching of the Jewish faith, and certainly not the standard of a modern world.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish woman and only second woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Ginsburg has long been conscious of her Jewish roots and has used her personal and employment experience to pioneer toward gender and racial equality in every aspect of the law. Ginsburg, noting her Jewish upbringing and values once stated to Congress:

"I am a first generation American on my father's side, barely second generation on my mothers. Neither of my parents had the means to attend college, but both taught me to love learning, to care about people, and to work hard for whatever I wanted or believed in. Their parents had the foresight to leave the old country, where Jewish ancestry and faith means exposure to pogroms and denigration of one's human worth" (U.S.. Congress, 139).

Ginsburg has made mention of passing a Pennsylvania resort before World War II, which had a sign reading: "No dogs or Jews allowed." Ginsburg has often cited her firm Jewish upbringing and the values which were imparted upon her by her faith and her family for her stance on equality amongst the sexes and races in any context of the human experience. The same type of background and value-based learning can be seen in Ginsburg's counterpart, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Kagan's Jewish background has been seen as perhaps the most defining characteristic about her personality. A star pupil at her Hebrew School on the Upper West side, Kagan has long attributed her sense of value and equality to the beliefs she was taught in school and in her own home. Both Ginsburg and Kagan have been able to represent a minority within a minority as Jewish women sitting on the Supreme Court. However, it can be noted that neither of these women ever thought themselves less than anyone else, which can be directly connected to the teachings of the Jewish faith.

Other Jewish women have made their marks on society basing their success on the values with which they were imparted by the Jewish faith. Many of these women exist in the United States, where religious equality and freedom is often overshadowed by the news of the day. However, in viewing the status of the American Jewish woman in a contemporary American setting, one can easily see the capacity with which Judaism will continue to affect its followers and those outside of the religion as well.

The Future of the American Jewish Woman

Jewish women first arrived in the United States of America in 1654 when a boatload of refugees including four women, six men, and thirteen children landed in New Amsterdam after fleeing Dutch Brazil (Jewish Virtual Library, 1). Today, the most recent figure of Jews in America lies between 6.4 million and 6.6 million individuals (Zeveloff, 1). As seen, the American Jewish population is thriving, and among this population are many women who are working to achieve a sense of self within their faith, their work, their families and the like.

American Jewish women began to find new voices almost as soon as their arrival in America and the American Jewish Feminist movement continues to go on today. Scholars have noted that there is a continuing need within the Jewish community for talented, well-educated, and trained female role models to both inspire new leadership and to create new and emerging opportunities for the Jewish women of today and the future (YUNews, 1).

As the years go on, America continues to become more secular, and the need for firm, value-based and present religious institutions throughout the country is clearly apparent, especially within the Jewish community. Rabbi Ari Segal of the Women's Leadership Fellowship recently stated:

"As women play leadership roles that are on par with men in the corporate world, it has become increasingly imperative that young women are encouraged to pursue leadership roles in the community. If these women are not shown an equally engaging and empowering notion of Judaism, they will be left with an imbalanced perspective of what Judaism has to offer" (YUNews, 1).

As seen in recent initiative such as this, Judaism in America does not labor under the false representation that if you are a Jewish woman, you have nothing to offer that a man hasn't already offered himself. Instead, American Jewish women are being pushed to rally their full potential and go out into the world to make a difference for themselves, their families and the entirety of the American Jewish population. Gone are the ways of the past the sought to keep Jewish women under the thumbs of their male counterparts, and here are the days when Jewish women in America (and throughout the world) are being encouraged by the whole of the Jewish community to excel -- not only for the religion, but for themselves.

Today, universities such as Yeshiva University and its Center for the Jewish Future have set forth initiatives to empower women and force them to understand that they, as a group and as individuals, have the capacity to change the world. With such forward-thinking initiatives, women of the Jewish faith are no longer limited to what the Torah or the Bible specifically tell them. While these teachings still encompass what the Jewish faith seeks to promote, such initiatives have moved to change with the times. As such, American Jewish women are now told that their lives need not adhere to the ways of the Bible, as days when men oversaw women in every capacity are simply no longer here. Instead, the Jewish faith seeks to promote camaraderie and a capacity to wish our fellow man well.

Conclusion

A Jewish woman's role is far more encompassing than one might believe, and in viewing her role in Judaism, it is clear that women are a vital part or the Jewish faith, community and culture. As seen in viewing the teachings of the Jewish faith, the history and evolution of the role of Jewish women in the eye of the religion and throughout the world, in noting specific achievements of Jewish women who have always held true to their faith,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Women in Judaism: An Evolving.  (2012, November 28).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-judaism-evolving/8963206

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-judaism-evolving/8963206.