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Transmission, mimesis, and gender: Jewish women's kashrut practices


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Using a ‘lived religion’ approach, this chapter analyses interviews conducted with Orthodox Jewish women to investigate how women learn about kashrut [Jewish dietary] rules, the resources they use when dealing with kashrut problems, and the kashrut practices that they develop themselves. The research shows the persistence of mimetic, family-based models in the transmission and practice of kashrut among women, thus challenging the scholar Haym Soloveitchik’s famous claim that text-based learning has superseded mimetic learning in the modern Jewish world. The chapter suggests that the two types of learning are strongly gendered, and it explores the differences between the ways men and women learn about and understand kashrut practices. The research highlights the difference, and the tense relationship, between elite text-based culture (almost exclusively male in the Orthodox Jewish world) and popular practice (largely in the hands of women in Orthodox daily kashrut observance) and raises issues of rabbinic control and authority versus family loyalty and self-confidence. The study reveals the divergence between a nominally hegemonic authority of elite, male-authored texts and their interpretation by rabbis, and an unacknowledged lived religion in which women decide everyday ritual practice. Taylor-Guthartz suggests that to gain a complete picture of any religious tradition, knowledge of its elite written aspects must be balanced with the investigation of lived, everyday religious practice, and the complex relationships between these two elements must be appreciated and understood.




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Link to article (paywalled), Transmission, mimesis, and gender: Jewish women's kashrut practices

Bibliographic Information

Taylor-Guthartz, Lindsey Transmission, mimesis, and gender: Jewish women's kashrut practices. Female Faith Practices: Qualitative Research Perspectives. Routledge. 2023:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/10.4324/9781003228431