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Challenge and Conformity: The Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women


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Orthodox Jewish women are increasingly seeking new ways to express themselves religiously, and important changes have occurred in consequence in their self-definition and the part they play in the religious life of their communities. Drawing on surveys and interviews across different Orthodox groups in London, as well as on the author’s own experience of active participation over many years, this is a thoroughly researched study that analyses its findings in the context of related developments in Israel and the USA. Sympathetic attention is given to women’s creativity and sophistication as they struggle to develop new modes of expression that will let their voices be heard; at the same time, the inevitable points of conflict with the male-dominated religious establishment are examined and explained. There is a focus, too, on the impact of innovations in ritual: these include not only the creation of women-only spaces and women’s participation in public practices traditionally reserved for men, but also new personal practices often acquired on study visits to Israel which are replacing traditions learned from family members. This is a much-needed study of how new norms of lived religion have emerged in London, influenced by both the rise of feminism and the backlash against it, and also by women’s new understanding of their religious roles.



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Taylor-Guthartz, Lindsey Challenge and Conformity: The Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women. Liverpool University Press, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2021:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-1769