What one Jewish feminist looks like

Growing up I was Jewish because that is how I was raised, that is what my family was. I struggled with the concept of religion in general however, because, how could I, as a woman, be part of a community that was founded on patriarchy? The best way I know how to articulate how I felt is, I was in a fight with Judaism; that simple and that complicated. I couldn’t abandon Judaism because I found fault with parts of it anymore than I could remove myself from my less than perfect family history.

I grew up in a conservative American Jewish family, yet we attended services at Chabad often. In the year we left my childhood synagogue for a reform one, and still we attend Chabad once in a while. This unique combination of wandering allowed me to appreciate the benefits of each sect of the religion and see how each branch dealt with the same texts. Each community had very strong women, who appealed to me, as a feminist, but they expressed their strength in very different ways.

This is the point in my life when I realized how much of how I view gender, family, society, social justice and life is shaped by my religion so it is impossible for me to call myself an American feminist. American feminism tends to focus on white Christian women. Black women, as of late, have begun to identify as black feminist in order to incorporate the intersects of their identities. After a quick google search, I found Jewish women doing the same. I am a Jewish feminist.

I believe that my religion/culture has a place for every individual. I believe that my ancestors lived in a certain context as do we and that part of our modern context is to embrace, not tolerate, women and people in the LGBTQ community. I believe we must begin to work to restructure society and our interpretation of Judaism to answer people’s needs for a more equal community both in Israel and Judaism globally. As the Yiddish saying goes “no answer is also an answer”.

About the Author
Sarah is passionate about LGBTQ and feminist Jewish movements. She has spent time studying these topics throughout her undergraduate studies. Sarah first went to Israel on Taglit a year ago. Since then she has been interning for Birthright to help Jewish youth explore how they connect to Israel with their individual identities.
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