What does it mean to engender Judaism? Non-Orthodox Judaisms distinguish themselves from Orthodoxy by their belief that Jews beget Judaism; they reshape and renew Judaism in the various times and places they inhabit. If we accept this premise, it will lead us to a new sense in which Judaism needs to be engendered. Jews in the Western world live in societies where the ethical ideal is for women to be full and equal social participants. But Judaism has only just begun to reflect and to address the questions, understandings, and obligations of both Jewish women and Jewish men. It is not yet fully attentive to the impact of gender and sexuality either on the classical texts or on the lived experiences of the people Israel. Until progressive Judaisms engender themselves in this second sense, they cannot engender fully adequate Judaisms in the first sense. In this book, I propose a theology for engendering Judaism in both senses: a way of thinking about and practicing Judaism that men and women recreate and renew together as equals.
All of us must participate in both kinds of engendering. Relegating gender issues to women alone perpetuates a fallacy about the nature of Judaism. It presumes that Judaism is a body of gender-neutral texts and traditions and that women constitute a special gendered addendum to the community of its transmitters.1 It further presumes that while women are represented in Jewish tradition they are separate from it. Scholarship about their representation is classified as "Women in..." or "Women and ..." and is regarded as nonessential knowledge of interest only to women. Men do not need to consider these special topics; they can simply study "Judaism." The truth is that, to paraphrase an old spiritual, all God's chillun got gender. There is not and never was a Judaism unaffected by the gendered perspectives of its transmitters and augmenters. If, as progressive Judaisms argue, social and historical factors affect Judaism, then it is hardly tenable to argue that gender is the only variable to which this rule does not apply. The impact of gender on Judaism, then, is not a women's issue; it is an issue for everyone who seeks to understand Judaism.
Engendering Judaism requires two tasks. The critical task is to demonstrate that historical understandings of gender affect all Jewish