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The Myth of the Cultural JewCulture and Law in Jewish Tradition$
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Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780195373707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373707.001.0001

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Women and Synagogue Ritual

Women and Synagogue Ritual

(p.193) 7 Women and Synagogue Ritual
The Myth of the Cultural Jew

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Oxford University Press

Chapter 7 probes Orthodox resistance to female participation in public Torah reading, the first area in the realm of gender and synagogue ritual to be subjected to a serious academic discourse among observant Jews. According to Jewish tradition, only men can read publicly from the Torah and recite a special blessing before and after a section of the Torah is read (known as an aliyah). Still, the classical Jewish sources concerning these matters are capable of supporting more inclusive practices with respect to women. This chapter argues that the current normative practices derive from a consensus that developed in the Middle Ages and is based largely on cultural considerations concerning women and their place in the Jewish tradition rather than strictly legal precepts. Therefore, for willing traditional communities change is possible.

Keywords:   gender, synagogue ritual, Orthodox Judaism, Torah, aliyah, halakhah, cultural considerations, classical Jewish sources, consensus, Middle Ages

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