2004 Student Research Conference:
17th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

Rejecting Feminism, Choosing Orthodoxy: Ba’alot Teshuvah
Lisa K. Gilbert
Dr. Natalie Alexander, Faculty Mentor

The Mishnah, the defining source of Jewish law, provides the base from which Orthodox Judaism envisions narrow roles for women. They are limited to the private sphere, told that their roles as mothers will bring them greater fulfillment than education, and taught to regulate their sexuality. For women seeking an alternative, feminist movements within Judaism contest conceptions of women as subordinate, weak, and sensitive creatures, and work towards change. While contemporary women might be expected to identify more closely with feminist Judaism, a surprising movement has begun in which secular women convert to Orthodoxy. By studying women who convert to Orthodox Judaism (known as ba’alot teshuvah), I will bring the conflict between feminism and Orthodoxy into sharp relief. What does Orthodoxy offer ba’alot teshuvah that feminist Judaism does not? Scriptural, feminist, and contemporary Orthodox textual sources will be examined from a stance sympathetic to all sides.

Keywords: Judaism, women, feminism, orthodoxy, religious conversion, ba’alot teshuvah

Topic(s):Philosophy & Religion

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 49-1
Location: VH 1412
Time: 3:45

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