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168 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 BOOK REVIEWS Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to OrthodoxJudaism, by lynn Davidman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. 254 pp. $24.95. Feminism is one of Judaism's great challenges of the late twentieth century. During the last twenty years a revolution has occurred in Jewish life: women are now ordained rabbis in the non-Orthodox denominations, included in synagogue rituals, given access to study traditional rabbinic texts, and much more. The outcome is not only a major shift in women's roles, but a deep questioning offundamental]ewish beliefs. Does halakhah really represent the will of God, given its many seemingly misogynous rules? If God is truly neither male nor female, why does the prayer book consistently use masculine images for the divine? To what extent can changes be made in Judaism to give women an equal voice, eliminate the misogyny, and yet not end up with simply a new religion? The upheavals of the women's movement in the United States left many women feeling lost, without a sense of belonging to a community. Once women became aware of the feminist critique of Judaism's patriarchy , many felt at a loss for a response. Some abandoned Judaism, while others work for changes that permit women access to men's roles. Still others seek fulfillment in traditional, patriarchal religious communities. Recent years have seen the rise offundamentalist movements, both Jewish and Christian, which draw a fine line between condemning feminism as a secular, anti-religious movement, and proclaiming themselves feminist because they oppose viewing women as sex objects and exalt women as wives and mothers. lynn Davidman presents a comparison of the experiences of single women in their twenties and thirties who have joined two similar Jewish groups, an Orthodox synagogue in New York City and a lubavitch community in St. Paul, Minnesota. A5 one of the first sociological studies of Jewish women, there is value in the very effort of Davidman's book, although her conclusions are weak. The two communities studied by Davidman share an openness to newcomers and an insistence on the centrality of marriage and children. While each is Orthodox, their attitudes toward the non-Jewish world differ markedly. The Uncoin Square synagogue, for example, attracts welleducated , professional women and allows them to continue working after Book Reviews 169 marriage and children. By contrast, Lubavitch emphasizes a difference in the very nature ofwomen and men, insisting that women's fulfillment can come only from having a husband and children, and discourages work outside the home once children have arrived.. Why are the women she studied drawn to Orthodoxy? Davidman suggests a variety of explanations. She notes that these women are estranged from the liberal varieties ofJudaism in which they were raised, although some retain a strong sense ofJewish identity or loyalty to the traditions of their grandparents' generation. Socially, many feel isolated and lonelymost have recently ended a relationship with a man-and lack a sense of personal fulfillment in their lives. The women who are drawn to the two communities generally arrive with finding a suitable spouse as a main goal. Davidman notes that the women she studied "never intended to become career women" (p. 193). Although they work, their jobs do not provide definitions of their identities, and two-thirds deliberately did not pursue graduate education, expecting instead to marry and have children. They do not seem to have strong goals for political or social change, nor to be involved in secular movements to bring about such change within the United States. Davidman discovers that women choose involvement in either Lincoln Square or Lubavitch not for theological reasons, but based on the female role offered by each community. The questions the women ask the rabbis concern the nature of femininity, women's roles, and the structure of marriage relationships, rather than theological questions about the existence of God, the validity of revelation, and so forth. Davidman raises important questions at the end of her study that should be addressed in the future. She asks, for example, about the impact of gender on belief in God. Among the women she interviewed at Lincoln Square...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 168-170
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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