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Religion

Figuring It Out

So how in the world was the rigid, traditional, millenniums-old practice of Judaism in any way connected to feminism, a movement that aims to restructure societies’ ideals and question tradition? How could I identify as both a believing Jew and as a feminist, not to mention lumping them together into one phrase? The more I repeated them to myself, the more the words ‘Jewish’ and ‘feminist’ sounded incorrect side by side, like “candied broccoli” or “kind bigot.”

Looking Over the Mechitza

Although I wish they were, feminism and Judaism are not congruous in my life. I am a feminist. I am a Jew. But when I put them together, they clash. In my life, being Jewish means that I am a part of my Modern Orthodox community, it means that I go to shul every week and sit in my designated place on the left side of the mechitza, the low wall that separates men and women during prayer.

Questioning My Identity from the Backseat

Why am I both burdened and liberated by the rich history that precedes me, and how do I identify myself with it accordingly? I remember sitting in a car outside of a Dunkin Donuts when I first pondered this question. Watching the cars drive along the highway, I tried to discern the faces of the drivers—discover their races, religions and genders in order to associate their appearances with stereotypical status and privilege. I wondered about myself—how I could fit in among the mosaic of peoples when my own identity seemed so misshapen.

Torah Reading Between the Lines

A few Saturday mornings a month, my Dad and I go to synagogue to read Torah. We drive there, even though my synagogue is within walking distance; my Dad often has errands to run, or I have a dance class I need to make, two activities that cannot be accomplished efficiently through walking. We pull into the parking lot, pry open the synagogue’s heavy wooden doors, and take our seats at the very back of the sanctuary. Within thirty minutes, as the Torah is being lifted in the air for the ritual of hagbah, we are out of there.

I Got It From My Mama: Feminism, Judaism, and Me

Many things about my lifestyle confuse my grandmother.

She does not understand why I wear white after Labor Day, how I can text so quickly, or why I’m vegetarian.

And four years ago, she could not understand how my name would be read as I was called to the Torah to become a Bat Mitzvah.

Traditionally, I would be Ilana bat (my mother's Hebrew name, which happens to be Rachel) and (my father's Hebrew name.) The issue with that formula was, I only had one parent. I have only ever had one parent.

Miriam Kressyn

Miriam Kressyn was that rare talent known as much for her performances as for her work offstage as a historian of the Yiddish theater.

Isa Kremer

A former star of the Russian Imperial Opera, Isa Kremer insisted on singing Yiddish songs to instill pride in Jewish audiences despite rampant anti-Semitism.

Lyalya Kaufman

The daughter of the acclaimed writer Sholom Aleichem and the mother of celebrated novelist Bel Kaufman, Lyalya Kaufman was revered in her own right for her thousands of vignettes and short stories in Yiddish.

Miriam Karpilove

Miriam Karpilove’s wildly popular Yiddish stories explored the tensions and frustrations Jewish women faced at the turn of the century—the desire for secular education, the hunger to participate in a wider culture, and the hardships of immigration.

Excerpts from the writings of Regina Jonas

The words of Regina Jonas continue to resonate with today’s rabbis. This past summer, at the dedication of a memorial plaque to Regina Jonas at Terezin by the United States Commision for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad, the first four American women rabbis honored their foremother Regina Jonas by reading the passages from her writings excerpted below.    

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Religion." (Viewed on October 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/religion>.

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