Women in Judaism

Recognize her?

How about her?

Natalie Portman and Dianna Agron are just two of many famous Jewish women. With all of these women being so highly celebrated, it’s hard to believe that some people view Judaism as constricting to the female gender. I was curious to learn what the reality was according to the Jewish books so I read up on what practicing Jews had to say.

I found that contrary to the public’s belief, Judaism celebrates women. The first major clue to that was that G-d is not specified to be masculine (like in many other religions) but instead possessing the positive qualities of both genders. This is further identified by the fact that G-d does not have a human form and therefore cannot have the identifying human body parts that would qualify for a specific gender. It is true that G-d is referred to as He or Him but that is because Hebrew does not have gender-neutral term.

The next point I found fascinating was that women have control of their marriages.  It goes without saying that men have absolutely no right to abuse their wives in any way- physically, psychologically or sexually. The Talmud (an important Jewish book) states specifically that a man must love his wife as much as himself and respect his wife more than himself. Even more, in cases of rape, women are believe right away- despite any other details (their enjoyment of the act, their state of being, their clothing, etc.). This is something that even modern-day America, which is widely considered as progressive, often lacks.

Women rights in terms of owning/buying/selling property and  making contracts are considerably progressive seeing as they were only legally allowed in Western countries, like America, within the last 100 years. As a business major, I am proud that the Jewish religion prizes business intellect in women.

In terms of religion, there are separate privileges that men are able to perform but are reserved for women. The main two are nerot which translates to lights and challah which is the bread that is eaten on sabbath. Nerot relates to women lighting the sabbath candles and challah relates to women baking the bread that is eaten on sabbath. The fact that women are given responsibilities that relate to the most important day of the week shows that they are regarded highly by the religious leaders and by G-d.

As an educated woman, the only point that I do not fully agree with is the role of woman as solely wives and mothers. Although this role is respected in Jewish tradition, I cannot stand behind any efforts to limit the many talents that women possess. This is where modern-day Jewish celebrities are breaking traditions in a positive way and showing that Jewish women are capable and can handle themselves outside of the household.

In totality, the Jewish religion sets up an excellent base for women to succeed with endorsement of their religion to help them. This is why we see so many Jewish women in the media that are highly successful. These celebrities help give Jewish women everywhere a good example for what can be achieved.


One thought on “Women in Judaism

  1. Wow! I am very surprised and did not know that these two actresses are Jewish! i liked this post and think it was very insightful. I think it is very respectful that women are believed right away in rape cases and not picked apart down to what they were wearing, etc. I’m curious about the contradictory points that women are considered progressive if doing business deals such as buying property but assumed to become housewives, etc. I suppose they can go together most of the time.

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