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Challenge and ConformityThe Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women$
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Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941718

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941718.001.0001

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The View from the Ladies’ Gallery: Women’s ‘Official’ Life in the Community

The View from the Ladies’ Gallery: Women’s ‘Official’ Life in the Community

Chapter:
(p.69) Three The View from the Ladies’ Gallery: Women’s ‘Official’ Life in the Community
Source:
Challenge and Conformity
Author(s):

Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781786941718.003.0004

This chapter documents and analyses women's activity in and experience of formal public worship in the synagogue. The synagogue is central to the performance of male religious obligations, but much less so to the performance of women's religious duties. Many observant women rarely attend synagogue, even if their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons go every week. Women have mixed feelings about synagogue attendance. Some find it essential to their experience of the sabbath, and some are resigned to their synagogue experience. Women traditionally play no or very little role in life-cycle celebrations. At some synagogues, women's participation is actively discouraged. Women held formal titles in the synagogues of ancient Rome, but there are no further instances of this until the twentieth century. Most Orthodox women emerge from the Jewish educational systems with little competence in reading Hebrew or in studying classical texts. Women find it hard to place acquired knowledge in a wider context, and tend to describe themselves as 'not very learned', ignoring their often immense expertise in areas of domestic knowledge, such as the running of a Jewish household. Women's lack of confidence, text-based knowledge, and training has prevented them from becoming Jewish educators. This survey of women's activity and experience in the 'official' communal sphere clearly illustrates the different attitudes and strategies of the three groups identifiable in the London Jewish community: Haredi, Modern Orthodox, and traditionalist.

Keywords:   women's religious duties, Jewish women, synagogue attendance, Jewish celebrations, Jewish religious activities, London Jewish community

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