The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Skvering the circle: the oppression of women

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1. Treating women as unpaid domestic slaves who should be neither seen nor heard is no part of Judaism. It is, however, engrained in the community, being one of the less pleasant habits that we picked up from our various host-cultures over the years; and because it is peculiarly convenient for many of those who shape the nature of religious life it is a habit that we appear reluctant to abandon.

2. The latest of a stream of Chassidishe Rebbeim is in London – the Skverer Rebbe. Last night a massed gathering of all the primary school children in the area attended upon the Rebbe to receive his blessings – with the small and unimportant exception of those who happen to be female.

3. Only one school – the Independent Jewish Day School – has bothered to make arrangements for its girls also to attend upon the Rebbe, who is delighted to receive them.

4. Every other school is in essence giving its girls a clear message that they and their spiritual aspirations are insignificant: that they simply do not register on the scale of things that matter. This is not a matter of public ritual in which the performance of public parts is reserved to men, like it or not, as a matter of Jewish law. It is a question of remembering that the spiritual attainments of girls and women are as important as those of boys and men.

5. One of the few positive things about majority Western cultures today is that women are to a large degree emancipated. Our girls see this, and participate in it in their secular lives. If our religion does not reflect this and keep pace with it – enabling women to be as fulfilled and challenged in their spiritual lives as they are in their secular avocations – girls will vote with their feet and leave the community; and it will be our fault.

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

January 11, 2008 at 8:10 am

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