A Breath of Life: Feminism in the American Jewish Community

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UPNE, 1995 - History - 308 pages
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Today's Jewish women, successfully availing themselves of the increased educational and occupational opportunities that feminism has encouraged, feel a new sense of self and entitlement. Yet as feminist advances have opened possibilities, they also have called into question traditional roles. The challenge to Jewish women today is to preserve the Jewish community and guarantee its survival while creating meaningful new social and spiritual models that respond to feminist enlightenment. Drawing on interviews with Jewish women from eighteen to eighty across the United States, as well as on new demographic data, scholarship, literature, and media, A Breath of Life explores the full panorama of contemporary options for Jewish women striving to combine community family and individual needs. Through the voices of these women, Sylvia Barack Fishman demonstrates the ways feminism has transformed both their secular and spiritual lives. Ceremonies such as bat mitzvah, which accepts women into the Jewish fold, are now widely practiced, and girls receive as much Jewish education as boys. The vast majority of adult women pursue both vocational and avocational interests, marry and have children, and choose their own religious options. A Breath of Life charts the course these women navigate, and explores the challenges and pleasures they find along the way. Tracing the emergence and development of a distinctly Jewish form of feminism, which has grown alongside the larger feminist movement but which specifically addresses the concerns of Jewish women, Fishman shows how it has done more to revitalize American Judaism than any other factor in the past two decades. Just as Eastern European Jews at theturn of the century and Holocaust survivors after World War II brought a religious intensity to American Jewish communities, today feminism is providing a fresh wave of enthusiastic reinterpretation and participation in American Jewish life. From study groups, to participation in services, to leadership in the community Jewish women are more involved than ever in Jewish life.

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A breath of life: feminism in the American Jewish community

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After conducting scores of interviews and analyzing the 1990 National Jewish Population Study along with other demographic data and Jewish American literature, Fishman, a research associate at ... Read full review


Discovering Jewish Feminism
Contemplating Marriage
Choosing Jewish Parenthood
Working Volunteering and Jewish Living
Broadening Sexual and Gender Roles
Sanctifying Womens Lives
Praying with Womens Voices
Educating the New Jewish Women
Breaking Through Jewish Ceilings
Balancing Jewish and Feminist Goals

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About the author (1995)

SYLVIA BARACK FISHMAN is Assistant Professor of Contemporary American Jewish Life and Senior Research Associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, and editor of the anthology Follow My Footprints: Changing Images of Women in American Jewish Fiction (1992).

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