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Religious Studies

Judaism: prejudice and discrimination

Attitudes to women

The Tenakh (Jewish Bible) and the Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara collected together) describe different roles for men and women.

Traditionally women have a sacred role - they bear children, run the home and take responsibility for their children’s Jewish upbringing. The woman passes on Jewish values and it is because of the mother’s Jewish faith (not the father’s) that a child is born Jewish.

Jewish women praying

Jewish women praying

While Jewish law excuses women from some religious duties (eg, they don’t have to wear the tzizit [Tzizit: Fringes on the corners of the Tallit (prayer shawl). ] and tefillin [Tefillin: Small leather boxes containing passages from the Torah, strapped to the forehead and arm for morning prayers on weekdays. ]) there are some duties that women are obliged to carry out like the lighting the Shabbat candles. (Shabbat is the day of spiritual renewal and rest commencing at sunset on Friday, terminating at nightfall on Saturday.)

Some people say that Judaism is sexist [Sexism: Discrimination based on a person's gender. ]. Men and women sit separately in Orthodox services and women cannot take an active part in this worship. Some Jewish women today accept these limitations, but they are as well-educated as men and choose to combine a career with family responsibilities.

Progressive Jews (which includes Jews of both liberal and reform traditions) think that this attitude is wrong and treat women equally in all respects, so they too can become rabbis (Jewish teacher) if they choose to do so.

Back to Prejudice and discrimination index

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