Sisterhood Blog

Priming the Next Generation of Feminists

By Francine Klagsbrun

  • Print
  • Share Share

This is the tenth entry in an ongoing series exploring Jewish feminism.

I embraced Jewish feminism with passion, as did many women in my generation. We were the mothers, the founders, the fighters. My special battle arena was having women ordained as rabbis in the Conservative movement. When that was accomplished, I knew we would win the larger war; we were helping to create a generation of learned, committed women who would change the face of Jewish communal life. What we predicted came true. Female rabbis now seem as natural a sight on the podiums of liberal synagogues as any male rabbi ever did, and Orthodox women have begun to find their way as religious leaders.

Now I listen with puzzlement when my almost-teenage granddaughter tells me that neither she nor her friends think of themselves as feminists. “That was in your time, Grandma,” she says, “it’s not part of our lives.” But what does she think when she chants a Torah portion out loud or leads services in our Conservative synagogue, as she has done since her bat mitzvah?

She must know — because I’ve told her — that only in recent times have women been permitted to do such things. Yet she takes these activities so for granted that she doesn’t want to hear about what used to be. She is happy with what is. So am I. We always said that we looked forward to the day when women will be so fully integrated into roles that once belonged exclusively to men that nobody would even comment on their presence. We have reached those goals and can feel good about our achievements.

But here’s a worm of discontent that gnaws away at my feminist soul: We opened the doors for women in many areas, but we did not show them how to manage their lives once they stepped through those doors.

My gynecologist, who is the mother of two young boys, tells me that she and her female medical partners must all work full time to keep their practice afloat. Her husband, a computer programmer, has more flexible time than she, and devotes much of it to caring for the children. “But we hardly see each other,” she complains. “I need more time with him; I need more time with them. How do I get it?”

Like her, many working mothers feel torn in all directions. It is true that men today are involved in childcare to an extent their fathers never dreamed of. Yet in many homes, and in spite of the vast changes feminism has wrought, women still carry the larger burden of organizing family life. Women still supervise homework, plan play dates, and schedule the family’s social activities. And even when a man, like my gynecologist’s husband, takes on much of the family responsibilities, women find themselves longing for more hours with their children, to read to them, play with them, shape them.

I would not turn back the clock.

I’m glad women have full access to every field of employment. I know also that working mothers’ lives would be improved if we had better day care, more office flex time, and other work benefits. But I know in my heart that even those benefits will not end completely working mothers’ struggles.

Perhaps there is no set answer to these struggles. Perhaps every woman needs to find her own balance in the work-family seesaw, as so many are now doing. Or perhaps another generation, that of my granddaughter and her friends, will arrive at new solutions to their mothers’ problems.

Then they, too, will discover their voices as feminists. Or whatever they want to call themselves.

Francine Klagsbrun, a columnist for The New York Jewish Week, is the author of more than a dozen books. She is currently writing an in-depth biography of Golda Meir, which will be published by Schocken Books.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Work-Life Balance, Jewish Feminism Series, Feminism

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.