JTA Op-Ed: “Israel must grant equality to women”
Is Judaism the problem or the solution to women’s equality?
Try telling agunot, women who are chained to their husbands unable to obtain a get, a religious divorce, that they are equal to men. Overarching Jewish values like b’tzelem Elohim — that all people are created in the image of God — may teach equality, but the day-to-day reality of too many women tells us of a struggle that is far from complete.
Is the pervasive inequality of women in Israel and in many other societies God’s will or men’s will? The majority of God language in our liturgy and our sources is masculine, which some have argued is simply the result of the Hebrew language being gendered. But imagine the cumulative effect of boys and girls growing up hearing God referred to only as He, Lord, Father and King. As feminist theologians have pointed out, “If God is male, then male is God.” One could conclude — wrongly — that Jewish theology supports the privileged place of men in ritual and society.
[Editor’s Note: In the video below, Rabbi Jacobs speaks on a panel about Judaism and women’s equality at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. This address was the basis for the text of this op-ed.]