Title

Resistance and memory - rupture and mending: The vision and challenge of Jewish feminist theology

Date of Award

1996

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

Alan L. Berger

Keywords

Tikkun Olam, Religion, Theology, Womens studies

Subject Categories

Religion

Abstract

The critical force of Jewish feminist theologies is rooted in a compelling vision of Tikkun Olam (repair or restoration of the world). In the face of divisive and oppressive androcentric-patriarchal worldviews, this vision challenges individuals and communities to create modes of relationship, communal structures, and moral practices shaped by a passion for equality, justice, and the full humanity of women. No longer willing to remain the Other's Other within their own religious tradition, the larger feminist movement, and institutional interfaith dialogue, Jewish feminist thinkers argue that their transformative-reconstructive efforts are key to revitalizing these communities and fostering a credible religio-ethical identity in the post-modern era.

Attention to theoretical foundations and reconstructive attempts, e.g., theological context, critical principles, methodological options, and hermeneutical theories, is a distinctive characteristic of this scholarship. First, these concerns expose the multiplicity of positions which mark this project, even though the common goal is full participation for women and other Jewish minority groups (e.g., gay, lesbian, and Sephardic) in the interpretation, development, and preservation of Judaism. The divergent views and commonalities marking feminist reinterpretations of God, Torah, (Jewish Teaching) and Klal Yisrael (Community of Israel) are analyzed. Second, these concerns uncover the creative dialectic influencing Jewish feminist thought and practice. Jewish feminism consciously employs traditional biblical imagery and theological concepts, as well as contemporary methodologies, critical principles, and hermeneutics, to reconstruct the tradition in a manner supportive of women. Furthermore, these concerns undergird the shared conviction that a theology's theoretical foundations are intrinsically connected to its ethical system. These thinkers scrutinize the ways in which theoretical foundations further traditional and feminist theological systems' collusion with oppressive worldviews.

The interpretation of attitudes and behaviors according to feminist understandings of Tikkun Olam has direct implications for traditional Judaism, the larger feminist movement, and institutional interfaith dialogue. It also challenges Jewish feminist thinkers to transform inadequate and/or oppressive elements within their own projects. This comprehensive process of critique, reinterpretation, and reconstruction reveals the significance of Jewish feminist theology for the future viability and credibility of Judaism, feminism, and interfaith dialogue in North America.

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