The role and status of women

The sacred scriptures of Judaism (the Tenakh and the Talmud) 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.

It is because of the mother’s Jewish faith (not the father’s) that a child is born Jewish.

While Jewish law excuses women from some religious duties (eg they don’t have to wear the tzizit and tefillin), there are some duties that women are obliged to carry out. One of these duties is the lighting of the Shabbat candles.

A Jewish woman lights Shabbat candles

Some people say that Judaism is sexist. 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) treat women equally in all respects, so women too can become rabbis if they choose to do so.