Gender and Judaism

Gender and Judaism is an emerging subfield at the intersection of gender studies and Jewish studies. Gender studies centers on interdisciplinary research on the phenomenon of gender. It focuses on cultural representations of gender and people's lived experience. Jewish studies is a field that looks at Jews and Judaism, through such disciplines as history, anthropology, literary studies, linguistics, and sociology.


Jewish law, or halacha, recognises gender ambiguity, and has done throughout Jewish history. The concept of a Tumtum being a person of ambiguous gender, is dealt with. Also the concept of the androgynos, being a person characterised with elements of both genders, is dealt with. These concepts have precedent dating back to the beginning of Jewish thought. These are obviously not recent concepts. Gender and Judaism has drawn scholarly interest due to the rapid growth of its intersecting fields during the late 20th century, fueled as well by popular and academic attention to Jewish feminism. As universities established women's studies programs, they have linked to Jewish studies as well. For instance, in 1997, Brandeis University established the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which aims to "develop fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research and artistic projects."[1] In addition, controversies over the role of women in Jewish denominations has drawn attention to gender roles, as constructed and regulated by religious institutions. For this reason, besides the academic attention, the liberal Jewish movements turn to gender and Judaism to reinforce their own mission and identity. Notably, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College has established the Gottesman Chair in Gender and Judaism and operates Kolot — the Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies ",[2] the first such center established at a rabbinical seminary (1996).

With the U.S.-based Association of Jewish Studies, a women's caucus works "to advance the study of gender within the Association for Jewish Studies and within the wider academic community." AJS holds at least one panel on gender every annual meeting, provide funding for presentations on gender and Judaism and published a collection of syllabi pertaining to gender.[3]



Gender and Jewish studies intersect primarily through research on Jewish women and the role of women in Judaism and Jewish culture.

Nonetheless, gender and Jewish studies also investigate the gender phenomena pertaining to men and masculinity. In addition, the subfield encompasses research on homosexuality and queer theory as these pertain to Jews and Judaism.

In historical terms, gender and Jewish studies span a broad range, from Biblical exegesis, research on rabbinic literature, Medieval Jewish culture, the importance of gender in Jewish responses to modernity, and gender identity politics in the contemporary period.

See also


  1. -Brandeis Institute
  2. AJS
  3. "Terms for Gender Diversity in Classical Jewish Texts" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-28.

External links


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