Gendered Boundaries and Jewish Transformations: Reflections on the Cultural Complexity of Jewish Feminism

Jewish feminism has existed in many forms since the 19th century, but it took a particular turn during the late 1960s in response to the early stirrings of second wave American feminism. Its effects were more radical and far reaching within Judaism than any previous movement because it challenged fundamental assumptions about gender and Jewish law that were grounded in the western enlightenment. Riv-Ellen Prell examined the ways in which gendered boundaries have challenged efforts to create American Jewish practices since the late 19th century and why Jewish feminism(s) continues to complicate, rather than resolve, the challenge. She discussed the meaning of equality in a pluralist system in order to understand the cultural dynamics of boundaries. The discussion drew on both ethnographic studies of American Jewish women in egalitarian Jewish communities and Jewish feminist writing about equality.

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