Jewish denominational approaches to religious feminism
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This study examines the responses of the four branches of American Judaism to religious feminism. It traces the history of each denomination and assesses the evolution of religious feminism within each of the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox movements as a function of their approaches to Americanization and modernity. A descriptive, qualitative, historical analysis is used in this study. The hypothesis states that the more a Jewish denomination is assimilated to American culture, the greater its acceptance of religious feminism. The lower its level of assimilation to the host society, the less it will accept religious feminism.;Using Milton Gordon's seven stage theory of assimilation, this study describes the assimilation of Reform Judaism in its identification with the American ideals of democracy, equality and choice. Conservative Judaism embraced democratic principles while adhering to an evolutionary view of Jewish law. Reconstructionist Judaism, as a native American development, never underwent the assimilation process. Rather, it incorporated egalitarian roles from its inception as a movement. As such, these three denominations have called for egalitarianism in religious life and have granted women equal access to religious roles in distinct ways and at different rates. Full equality has often been limited by the pace of the larger culture and its acceptance of secular feminism within American life.;Orthodoxy as a movement is less unified than the other denominations and in its religious life it has rejected the values of democracy and individualism of the majority culture. Consequently, through its observance of traditional Jewish law, Orthodoxy tends to deny women equal access to religious ritual. Certain segments of Orthodox women have made gains in the areas of education and prayer. Religious feminism as a current development in the American Jewish community is a dynamic issue in each of the denominations, reflecting how these groups respond to the larger secular society.