Page 107 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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Recent Literature on Jewish Women
i t e r a t u r e
o n
w o m e n
issues has burgeoned during the last
decade and a half in sufficient numbers to support stores that
deal exclusively in “women’s books” in every major city. Yet
one cannot say the same of literature on Jewish women.
Articles, yes—bu t books, no. This reflects two basic facts: (a) the
lapse of almost a decade between the onset of the general
woman’s movement and the transfer of its universal feminist
goals to the Jewish community in particular. (One can almost
date the inception of the Jewish woman’s movement: it began
with two seminal articles, one by T rude Weiss-Rosmarin on “The
Unfreedom of Jewish Women”
[T h e Jew ish Sp ec ta to r ,
1970], and the other by Rachel Adler, “The Jew Who Wasn’t
T here”
[Davka M aga z in e
, Summer 1971]); and (b) the ambi­
valent support—and oftentimes suspicion—by the larger Jewish
community of the women’s movement. This created a climate
of feeling which tended to discourage the full-time involvement
necessary to produce whole works on any subject.
However, in the last few years there has been a great deal
of ferment in the Jewish community. Every organization, every
periodical, every synagogue, every educational institution has
devoted some of its time, p r in t and programming to the issue
of women and Judaism. The Jewish community at large has
begun to grapple with the basic questions: how does an ancient
religion with its tradition, ritua l and cultural set of values inter­
act with a new and often conflicting ideology about women as
equals in every sphere of life? What are the areas of tension
and which of these will remain unresolved? What does the
tradition really say about women? What models have we in ­
herited from the past tha t have to be strengthened and used?
What of the past needs to be rejected as inadequate to the
needs and expectations of Jewish women today? Which of the
new values can legitimately be integrated without undermining
some very precious and core aspects of our tradition? What
will the impact of feminism be on the Jewish family? And in