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American Jewish Feminism: A Study in Conflicts and Compromises

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Publication Date: April 1980

Publisher(s): Sage Publications, inc.

Author(s): Steven M. Cohen

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)
Social conditions (Social values)

Keywords: American Jews; Feminism; Religion

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


To the secular feminist or conventional Jew, American feminism and American Judaism present vividly contrasting belief systems. Yet, since 1971, when small groups of young and articulate Jewish women first began to synthesize these two seemingly contradictory ideologies, a number of significant changes in American Jewish life have effected a partial reconciliation between modern feminism and traditional Judaism. These developments provide a glimpse into the differences between Judaism and feminism, a deep and pervasive conflict, one that touches a number of definable issues.

The aim of this article is, first, to elucidate the nature of the inherent but possibly not insuperable conflict between these two belief systems. It then seeks to describe the process by which some of the more thoughtful advocates of American Jewish feminism came to resolve or reduce the tensions between the two contrasting philosophies of life. In particular, it explores a variety of ideological accommodations, the circuitous paths taken by women who adopted them, and the structural dynamics involved in their establishment of voluntary organizations designed to bridge the gap between feminist principles and the conventional Jewish community.

In American Behavioral Scientist, v.23:4, March-April 1980, p.519-558.