Sisterhood Blog

‘Jewish’ and ‘Feminist’ Don’t Share Borders

By Hanna Rosin

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This is the twelfth entry of an ongoing series exploring Jewish feminism.

This is embarrassing and something I should never admit because it betrays a lack of commitment to passionate principles and also a resistance to deep thinking. But here it is: “Jewish” and “feminist” exist in two different boxes for me, and I have never managed to get them to share borders. This is not for lack of trying.

I am Jewish, and I am the founder and editor of a woman’s website. In college I read Lilith magazine and I went to the kinds of reformed services where God was sometimes a “she.” (I went to college in California.) I also briefly attended such a synagogue in D.C., where I live now, and participated in a long and earnest discussion about the dual gender nature of the deity.

But ultimately the whole enterprise made me squirm.

I was born in Israel and grew up in Queens. My synagogue there was full of old men and they only spoke Hebrew and never much cared what we, the young people or we, the girls and women, thought about anything. It was a thoroughly unpleasant and unsatisfying spiritual experience, but that’s what we had. Over the years I have tried to move away from it and create myself a more fulfilling, nourishing kind of Judaism. But the truth is, it makes me uncomfortable.

I realized in recent years that what I want from my Judaism is ritual — old, familiar, and some might say thoughtless ritual. I like to say the prayers the same way I have always said them, sing the songs in the same old tuneless way and make my kids go to Hebrew school. And in the old version, God is just He.

Hanna Rosin is a founder and editor of Slate’s Double X. Her book “The End of Men: And The Rise of Women” comes out in September. She is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.


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