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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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Red Threads and Amulets: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Family

Red Threads and Amulets: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Family

(p.208) Six Red Threads and Amulets: Women’s ‘Unofficial’ Life in the Family
Challenge and Conformity

Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz

Liverpool University Press

This chapter explores unofficial domestic customs. The least visible aspect of Jewish women's lives is the individual customs or practices they perform in a domestic or everyday context, many learnt from female relatives, and the part these play in their religious lives. Individual practices are often so automatic that women do not reflect on them. In some cases, they receive so little attention from rabbis or in popular Jewish literature that women themselves discount or denigrate them as 'superstitions', even as they practise them. There has been a decline in older practices, which are more likely to be identified as magical or superstitious by women operating partly within a Western worldview, whereas more pietistic practices have increased in number among young women with higher levels of formal Jewish education. Other factors that facilitate and shape change in women's religious lives include developing technology in the Western world, such as the replacement of domestic manufacture by industrial production, leading to the demise of customs associated with these technologies, and the growing possibilities offered by the Internet in spreading knowledge of recently invented or expanded customs. Traditionalist women, though principally Western in their education and thinking, are still inextricably linked to their Jewish identity, which often includes customs and practices for which they might struggle to find a rationale, but which they are committed to observing. These customs provide a fertile field for women to adapt and reinterpret existing practices, and to invent new ones that express their most urgent concerns and aims.

Keywords:   unofficial domestic customs, Jewish domestic customs, Jewish women, Jewish individual customs, Jewish identity

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