Women’s Empowerment

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By the Middle Ages, community responsibility encompassed every aspect of life. The Jewish community regulated market prices so that the poor could purchase food and other basic commodities at cost. Wayfarers were issued tickets, good for meals and lodging at homes of members of the community, who took turns in offering hospitality. Both these practices anticipated "meal tickets" and modern food stamp plans. Some Jewish communities even established "rent control," directing that the poor be given housing at rates they could afford.

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Feminists could be as Orthodox in their beliefs as traditionalists were in theirs. My critique was two-pronged: what Orthodoxy and feminism could learn from each other. Some in the audience welcomed the critique of Orthodoxy, but bristled at the critique of feminism. Happily, there has been great change in each sector during these past 30 years. Feminism yielded its radical edge, turned unqualifiedly family friendly, and became more inclusive of men. Orthodoxy has integrated values of gender equality to an extent unimaginable three decades ago.

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"Feminism was an entry point for many women into Judaism and not an exit as other modern social movements had been."

[from http://jwa.org/feminism/_html/JWA031.htm]

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It was kol isha (the voice of women) for col isha (every woman) that inspired me to write inclusive music. It is beneficial not only for women, but for men and children as well. Singing helps us learn how to be vocal. Ultimately, the voices of women, their sense of empowerment, can be borne from song, which can form the core of political, spiritual, and economic transformation. The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions. Then every woman will be heard, and every voice will be heard: kol isha for col isha.

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It is not enough to say that Judaism views women as separate but equal, nor to point to Judaism's past superiority over other cultures in its treatment of women. We've had enough of apologetics: enough of Bruria, Dvorah, and Esther; enough of Eshet Chayyil (woman of valor)!

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To be successful, a woman has to be better at her job than a man.

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A leader who doesn't hesitate before sending their nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.

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Women's Liberation is just a lot of foolishness. It's the men who are discriminated against. They can't bear children. And no one's likely to do anything about that.

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Shifra and Puah were originally Egyptians who embraced Judaism. Otherwise how could Pharoah have ordered them to kill Jews? How could they in the first place have agreed? Surely every Jew is obliged to sacrifice his life rather than commit idolatry, incest or murder! That is why the text observes: "The midwives feared God"- implying that previously when they were still heathens they had not feared Him. Had they not been Egyptians what would have been the point of telling us that they feared God. Surely as Jewesses that was taken for granted.

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DESCRIPTION:

In this passage from a 1997 interview, Bella Abzug remembers attitudes she faced as a young lawyer. Experiences such as these reinforced her already strong commitment to working for equal rights and opportunities for women.

FROM THE INTERVIEW:

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