Jewish Voices in Feminism: Transnational Perspectives

Jewish Voices in Feminism: Transnational Perspectives

Jewish Voices in Feminism: Transnational Perspectives

Jewish Voices in Feminism: Transnational Perspectives

Synopsis

Feminist theories maintain that gender issues are a ubiquitous component of our lives, intersecting with every aspect of the society in which we live and interact. Because the feminist debate has included questions important to Jewish discourse, including religion, antisemitism, Zionism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is not surprising that such matters should also be of concern to Jewish women, many of whom have played an active role in feminist movements.

In Jewish Voices in Feminism, Nelly Las navigates primarily among three cultures (French, Anglo-American, and Israeli) to present a philosophical and historical analysis of the intersection between contemporary Jewish dilemmas and feminism and its impact on Jewish thinking. She also explains the ambivalent attitude of feminist activists regarding current developments in the Jewish world. This book, based on extensive documentation that includes written and oral testimonies, provides a wide variety of gender-centered approaches to ethics, solidarity, identity, and memory.

Excerpt

Feminism, a major twentieth-century phenomenon, has indisputably impinged upon all aspects of our society, both nationally and internationally. No longer limited to the topics bound up with the militant activism of the first women’s movements, it has become part of philosophical, religious, and political debate and contributed to an enormous field of thought, positions, and societal goals. However, feminism still has a highly controversial image, and it is often stigmatized in public discussions. Why is there so much suspicion about a movement that legitimately calls for women’s equality, autonomy, recognition, and equal participation in society? a movement that has achieved outstanding results in the last half century and continues to fight for the large numbers of women who are still oppressed and underrepresented? One of the reasons is that feminism not been content to simply be a social movement for the benefit of women. Instead, it has called into question society’s traditional foundations from a whole range of viewpoints, such as relations between the sexes, cultural and religious norms, and the nexus between private and public (or political). However, of feminism’s many forms, public opinion seems to focus only on the most radical, the most subversive, those which (deliberately or otherwise) stand out as a result of what are considered their “excesses.” There is a tendency to ignore the richness of thought, as well as the many different and sometimes conflicting theories to which feminism has given rise. These call for rethinking such topics as politics, difference, religion, the nation, identity, power relations, modernity, emancipation, exile, or globalization. But this theoretical or ideological aspect of feminism cannot be separated from its political and ethical commitments. This justifies consideration of its various positions on contemporary intellectual and topical issues, linked directly or indirectly to women’s struggles.

These developments constitute the backdrop to my efforts to observe feminism’s impact on contemporary Jewish thinking, as well as feminist activists’ ambivalent attitudes to current developments in the Jewish world, involving aspects of identity, religion, nationhood, and memory. My aim is not to study the condition of women in Judaism, nor to compare the two areas of identity (Jews/women). These topics will however inevitably crop up. My . . .

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