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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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Is Feminism Compatible with Orthodoxy?

In Judaism men and women are given specific roles. Each has their own area of responsibility for fulfilling God’s will.

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Eliyahu makes the point that when a society as a whole believes that the quintessential Jewish role for women is that of being an Akeres HaBayis – the anchor of the home which includes being a wife, mother, and homemaker – then she has no claim to being a feminist by choosing that role. Even as he lauds that choice – one cannot be a feminist  if everyone else is doing it or expected to do it. One can choose that role and be a feminist only if it is one of many options. Not if it is the only option. That – he says – does not fit the accepted definition of the word. But then again neither does JOFA’s limited feminism fully fit that definition.

But Orthodox Judaism does fit my definition of feminism. I believe that even Charedim will at least in theory (if not in practice) agree it. Or at least say that it is a valid position even if they do not for example agree with equal pay for equal work (for practical reasons). There is nothing incompatible with the Torah in the feminist ideals I espouse.

That Ruth Colian is trying to break the Charedi ‘glass ceiling’ is both compatible with Orthodoxy and feminism. I do not think it is impossible to break that ceiling even in the Charedi world. If for example the government declares the Charedi prohibition against women serving in the Knesset to be illegal, I am convinced that they will not resign the Knesset over it and dissolve their political parties. They will not give up the power that being a member of the Knesset gives them.  If it were true that Ruth Colian’s feminism is incompatible with Orthodoxy, they would resign!

I am rooting for Ms. Colian. I hope the government sees it her way. That will show that feminism is alive and well even in the most right wing segment of Orthodoxy.
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Harry Maryles

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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