Role of Women in Judaism  Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Nor could a man repudiate the oath made by any of his female relatives." (Azeem, 1995)

VI. The ROLE of the MOTHER

Part two of the work entitled: "Women in Islam vs. Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth and the Reality" states that in relation to 'mothers' from the viewpoint of the Old Testament, there are several commandments concerning the necessity for kind and considerate treatment of parents and a condemnation for those who dishonor their parents. In Islam, the mother holds a very special place and as described by the Prophet Muhammad as follows: "A man asked the Prophet: 'Whom should I honor most?' The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother!'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your father'" (Bukhari and Muslim; as cited in Kingston, 1995).


The work entitled: "Understanding the Three Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam" states to the question of how Judaism views women that women in Judaism "whether single or married" is viewed " as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd) in fact, this is taken so seriously that "A marriage contract is drawn up and signed by the groom to the bride who identifies and guarantees her rights." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd) Within the Hebrew Scriptures are women who are prophets "such as Miriam" as well as "judges and generals" (Deborah); war heroes (Jael); great women of faith (Ruth and Abigail) as well as others. (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd)

While women are exempted from many of the commandments "...incumbent upon traditional Judaism...for historical and theological reasons...' still women in Judaism " pivotal roles in the life of Judaism: ushering in the Sabbath, fulfilling the role of first teachers of Jewish children, maintaining the everyday laws of kashrut (fitness) and perpetuating Judaism itself through childbirth." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd) This same work reports that Christianity "...has been influenced by and encountered in cultures that are patriarchal.

The stories of Jesus' first followers, many of whom were women (most clearly the witnesses to the Resurrection) suggest that the position of women in the early Church challenged the male-dominated culture of the time. As a living faith, this challenge goes on. Differing parts of the global Church are at different points on the journey." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd)

This work also reports on the role of women in Islam and states that in Islam a woman is viewed "whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's. Both men and women are expected to dress in a way that is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd) Stated is that the Prophet Muhammad said "The most perfect in faith amongst believer is he who is best in the manner and kindest to his wife." (Hughson, Johnston, and Bisman, nd)


The work of Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb entitled: "Claiming the Title Kohenet: Examining Goddess Judaism and the Role of the Priestess Through Conversations with Contemporary Spiritual Leaders" that Kohenet is a word derived from the term 'kohen' which means one of the priestly class under the authority of Moses' brother Aaron, "From who a lineage is traced in which the sons and often the daughters of kohen inherited the role of priest." (nd) Gottlieb states that the book of Jeremiah, in the Bible "refers to women baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven, yet most of us raised in Judaic-Christian traditions were not told this growing up. She is there, in the canon, and ahs been for 3000 years." (Gottlieb, nd)

Gottlieb states that there was never a female creator in the story she heard as an American Jew and in fact, the Sacred Feminine as embodied in deity" was not part of the education that religion provisioned to Gottlieb. Gottlieb states that the Sacred Feminine was hidden by the text and "through the lack of it, the text of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament was patriarchal, with an emphasis on punishment and strict obedience to male authority and law - we were never told about places in which Shekhinah, She Who Dwells Within, resides." (Gottlieb, nd) According to Gottlieb, one of these places is known to be the location of Mount Sinai, where Moses waited six days for the Holy Spirit to communicate to him. According to Gottlieb, Shekhinah is defined as 'ruach' which means God's spirit or breath....whose presence is often cited as Wisdom..." (nd)

The work of Katha Pollitt entitled: "Who's Afraid of Judy Maccabee?" states that a study "just out from Brandeis University portrays as problematic the fact that women are now prominent in Reform and Conservative Jewish Life."(2008) Pollitt asks the question of "for how many thousands of years did Judaism keep women out of any kind of formal religious role, including even counting them as members of the congregation for ritual purposes?" (2008)


In Islam, marriage has as its basis "mutual peace, love and compassion, and not just the mere satisfying of human sexual desire." (Malaekah, nd) the Quran speaks of marriage stating: "And of His signs is: that He created for you from yourselves mates that you mind find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are a signs for a people who give thought." (Quran, 30:21) the husband is not given authority of the wife in Islam and according to the writings of the Quran, in the even that marital disputes arise, it is stated that couples are encouraged to "resolve them privately in a spirit of fairness and probity." (Malaekah, nd)

The Quran even sets out irresolvable differences to fall within the scope of family mediation in seeking a resolution to the dispute. Within the Islam religion, both male and female genders are "entitled to equality before the Law and court of Law. Justice is genderless." (Malaekah, nd) Political and social life participation involves collaborative efforts of male sand females and stated is that "sufficient historical evidence [exists] to support the belief that Muslim women participated in the political aspects of society in making choice of the rulers, in issues of public interest and in law making." (Malaekah, nd)

The work of Joy (2008) entitled: "The Role (or Non-Role) of Women in Religion" states that there is a "...strong claim made by modern Islamic women that, at the time of the prophet Muhammad, women actively were engaged in the early community. Women frequented the mosque, celebrated feast days and were present at Muhammad's discourses." (2008) Joy (2008) goes on to relate the fact that strong evidence indicates "...that during the first century and a half of Christianity women were active in various ministries of the early community though not on the same scale as men. The evidence is basically to be found in the Epistles (especially those of Paul) and Acts of the Apostles/disciples. Women taught, preached, presided at the table ministry, and supervised the house churches where these latter services took place. (Joy, 2008)

Jewish women, until just very recently "...did not have access to training in colleges or seminaries where they could acquire the relevant scholarship to study the Bible, rabbinics and theology. This had been the preserve of men. Today in Judaism, there are women in all branches of Judaism - Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform, many of whom identify themselves as feminist, who are striving to reclaim their roles in the Jewish heritage." (Joy, 2008)


This work would not be complete if it did not address the critical aspect of 'honor' in the Muslim society. The work of Feldner (2000) published in the Middle East Quarterly relates a story of an honor killing and states that ", honor killings are prevalent mostly among Muslim populations." There are two kinds of honor in the Muslim society known as 'sharaf' and 'ird' the first of which "relates to the honor of a social unit..." And the second, which relates "only to the honor of women." (Feldner, 2000) Analysis of honor killings reported in the work of Feldner relates that in many of these killings, the individual who actually does the killing and then confesses reports that they have only done what the…

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