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Jewish Women Call for Change

Introduction

An organization of Jewish feminists, Ezrat Nashim called for greater equality for women within the Conservative movement. The group's name is a play on words. While it literally means "assistance of women" it was also the name used to refer to the women's section in synagogues in which women and men sit separately. In 1972, Ezrat Nashim went to the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly meeting and shared their demands, which are described in the document below.

Jewish Women Call for Change

Jewish Women Call for Change
Full image
Ezrat Nashim’s “Call for Change,” presented to the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement on March 14, 1972. From the personal archive of Paula Hyman. (Click "Full Image" to see transcript.)

Discussion Questions

  1. What was the role of Jewish women in traditional Judaism? Why aren't the women of Ezrat Nashim comfortable with these roles any more? What is their new reality?
  2. What tensions in the Conservative Movement does Ezrat Nashim identify? Are these tensions still present today?
  3. Ezrat Nashim states, "We've had enough of apologetics: enough of Bruria, Dvorah, and Esther, and enough of Eshet Chayil!" Who are these women? Why do you think Conservative Jewish women had had enough of these Jewish figures? In what ways has Judaism moved beyond these Jewish heroines? Who would you name as Jewish heroines for today's Judaism?
  4. What were Ezrat Nashim's demands? How many of these have come to pass? How do you think these demands changed what the Jewish community looks like today?
  5. What do you think Ezrat Nashim learned from the Civil Rights Movement and other liberation movements? What in this document makes you think that?

Tableaux Vivants

With your group, plan two tableaux vivants ("living pictures" in French) that will help teach your classmates about the document you just discussed. What would a painting or photograph illustrating this document look like? Recreate that picture with members of your group stepping in as the characters represented.

  1. The first tableau vivant pose should illustrate "the way things were"—the circumstances that the activists wanted to change, (based on your document).
  2. The second pose should illustrate that change (based on your document). In the second pose, each member of your group should be clear who their character is, what role that character plays, and what s/he believes. (see below)

After completing your poses, you will be asked to communicate the following to your classmates about the document you discussed, while staying in character:

  • What is Ezrat Nashim? Who are you?
  • What concerns do you have?
  • Is your activism focused within the Jewish community or more about the broader community?
  • How, if at all, do you see your struggle as connected to the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How do you plan to bring about the change you want to see? (if known from the document)

You should also be prepared to answer other questions posed by other students in the class, while staying in character.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women Call for Change." (Viewed on September 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/documentstudies/jewish-women-call-for-change>.

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