Why Judaism Needs Feminism

This is the fifteenth entry in an ongoing series exploring Jewish feminism.

I’m a Jewish feminist for a lot of reasons.

On the one hand, given that feminism is about removing external hindrances to the project of everyone living out their highest, holiest, Divinely-given potential —why wouldn’t I be? There’s still plenty of homophobia, transphobia and sexism in Jewish law, rituals, communities and institutional structures. As such, we still have a lot of work to do to create textual activism, forceful new interpretations, transformative moments, and straight-up institutional change in contemporary Jewish life.

But more than that, I’m a Jewish feminist because I believe that Judaism and feminism absolutely require one another.

As a feminist, my work is nourished by my spiritual practice, and enables me to draw from a Source much deeper and more powerful than my limited self. As a Jew — well, quite naturally, Judaism is enriched by the extraordinary range of perspectives and voices that feminism adds to the ongoing project of receiving the Torah anew. Without them, our religion will wither and die; with them, it can continue to grow and expand, enabling us all to become more moral, more kind, more connected to the sacred, and better able to serve God.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is author of “Surprised By God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion” (nominated for the Sami Rohr prize), editor of five anthologies, including “The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism” and “Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism,” and is the senior Jewish educator at Tufts Hillel.

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