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April 9, 2010

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.

Featuring

Riv-Ellen Prell

Riv-Ellen Prell, an anthropologist, is Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota where she is affiliated with the Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies. Among her publications are Gender, Class and Jewishness: New Approaches to the Study of Identity (2011), Fighting to Become Americans: Jews, Gender, and the Anxiety of Assimilation (1999), and Prayer and Community: the Havurah in American Judaism (1989). Her edited volumes include Women Remaking American Judaism (2007) and Interpreting Women’s Lives: Personal Narratives and Feminist Theory (1989). She is also working on a forthcoming book on Jewish youth, cultural citizenship, and the post-war period in the United States. Prell holds a BA from the University of Southern California and a MA and PhD from the University of Chicago.