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Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism
Resistance and Accommodation
Tova Hartman



HBI Series on Jewish Women

Brandeis University Press
2007 • 184 pp. 6 x 9"
Women's Studies / Jewish Studies

$19.95 Paperback, 978-1-58465-659-3



“[D]elightfully perceptive . . . [Hartman's] observations of the Modern Orthodoxy movement are so insightful that this work should be required reading for students of contemporary Judaism, whether or not they have any interest in feminism.”—American Jewish Libraries Newsletter

An innovative analysis of how creative tensions between modern Orthodox Judaism and feminism can lead to unexpected perspectives and beliefs

University professor and social activist Tova Hartman, discouraged by failed attempts to make her modern Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem more inclusive of women, together with other worshippers, set about creating their own own, Shira Hadasha (“a new song”).

Since it opened in 2002, this new synagogue’s mission—to develop a religious community that embraces halakhah (Jewish law), tefillah (prayer), and feminism—has drawn thousands to services. The courageous act of creating the synagogue—against amazing odds—is testimony to Hartman’s own deeply felt commitment to both feminism and modern Orthodox Judaism.

The story of the creation and ongoing development of similar “partnership minyans” in Jerusalem and elsewhere anchors and ties together this book’s five essays, each of which explores a vital contact point between contemporary feminist thought and aspects of Jewish tradition. Hartman discusses three feminist analyses of Freudian psychology for reading Jewish texts; modesty and the religious male gaze; the backlash against feminism by traditional rabbis; the male imagery in liturgy; and Orthodox women and purity rituals. Throughout, Hartman emphasizes the importance of reinterpretation, asking her readers to view as “creative tensions” what seem like obvious and insurmountable contradictions between traditional and modern beliefs. Such tensions can offer unexpected connections as well as painful compromises. The conclusion revisits the construction of the synagogue as well as discusses its impediments and actualizing these types of social and religious changes.

Hartman’s book will speak directly to scholars and students of gender, religion, and psychology, as well as anyone interested in the negotiation of feminism and tradition.

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Reviews:

“[Hartman's] new book presents a radical perspective on being a modern Orthodox Jewish feminist. She confronts every difficult issue for a feminist in Jewish practice, locates the issues in universal terms informed by the latest feminist scholarship as well as by a deep knowledge of Jewish texts, and presents innovative perspectives that are important for anyone who wishes to maintain a religious commitment and still be intellectually and spiritually honest. This book is also a powerful reminder that the debates in Halachah (Jewish law) retain their appeal to many because they are intellectually exciting even when one doesn't accept the Orthodox premises from which they begin.” Tikkun

"It is a "must-read" for anyone interested in religious feminism for any stripe."
Lilith

“Stressing reinterpretation and creative tensions, Hartman juxtaposes moving personal reflection with trenchant diagnoses of the means by which and reasons why (some) Jewish traditionalists refuse to acknowledge feelings of religious marginalization and alienation experienced by (some) Jewish women . . . Recommended.” Choice

Endorsements:

“This book is an intellectual/analytical feast and a spiritual delight. Using feminist criticism and theory for deeper insights into the relationship of modern Orthodox tradition and women, Hartman comes up with fresh, surprising and varied models which critique and confirm the tradition and the feminist critiques of tradition. Not many books have crisp, solid scholarship; fewer have wisdom. This book has both.”—Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation

“This smart, subtle, and intensely personal book provides a fresh inquiry into an enduring dilemma: How can women committed at once to established religious tradition and to the ethical claims of modern feminism, resolve the tensions between them? Hartman elegantly charts her own complex process of intellectual and spiritual engagement and her dogged refusal to deny or evade the hard questions that religion and feminism continue to pose one another. It's a gem of a book, and one I can't wait to teach.”—Marie Griffith, Professor of Religion, Princeton University



Author Photo

TOVA HARTMAN is a lecturer at Bar Ilan University and author of Appropriately Subversive: Modern Mothers in Traditional Religions (2002).






Fri, 8 Aug 2014 12:00:03 -0500