Contemporary Issues in Western Religions

The contemporary struggle that Judaism faces is women’s rights throughout the divisions of Judaism. Judaism is broken into four branches or divisions (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist) (Malloy, M, 2010). Within the divisions are variations of religious observances including views of women and the roles and actions are considered acceptable and unacceptable within each branch (Malloy, M, 2010). The Orthodox division of Judaism focuses on the traditional Jewish beliefs and practices.

Orthodox Judaism retains the practice of seating men and women separately in synagogues (Malloy, M, 2010). Often time’s women sit in upstairs galleries away from men and away from their family (Malloy, M, 2010). This thought process carries over to the social roles that men and women hold within Orthodox Judaism, men are the “breadwinners” of the family while women have the responsibilities associated with running the household (Malloy, M, 2010). Orthodox Judaism only allows men to celebrate the coming-of-age ceremony (bar mitzvah) (Malloy, M, 2010).

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Some Orthodox Judaism married women cover their heads with a kerchief when outside of their homes as an expression of modesty because hair is considered to be seductive to men (Malloy, M, 2010). Conservative Judaism consists of Jews who desired moderate change with the protection of the “beloved” traditions (Malloy, M, 2010). Conservative Judaism accepts change only after they have studied and discussed how to guide the change carefully (Malloy, M, 2010). Reform Judaism emerged by Jews desiring to enter the “mainstream” culture leaving the “ghetto” life (Malloy, M, 2010).

Reform Judaism brought radical changes after questioning every traditional Jewish belief and practice (Malloy, M, 2010). Reform Judaism allows men and women to sit together during services (Malloy, M, 2010). Rabbi Issaac Mayer Wise’s Anshe Emeth Congregation in Albany occupied a church building in 1851 and New York’s Temple Emanu-El bought a former church in 1854 both determining they would seat men and women together in pews rather than building new galleries (Goldman, 2009).

Reform Judaism established equality for men and women allowing women to become rabbis and allowing girls to have coming-of-age ceremonies where each girl becomes a “daughter of the commandment” (bat mitzvah) (Malloy, M, 2010). Women dominated in attendance at weekly Sabbath services with the introduction of Reform Judaism departing from the traditional patterns of synagogue worship (Goldman, 2009). Women of the Reform Movement contributed to the growing expectations that women should be recognized as full participants in the work of Reform Judaism (Goldman, 2009).

Women expanded their involvement in synagogue life in the congregational religious schools where they serve as teachers and supporters (Goldman, 2009). The Sisterhood of Personal Service provided women with a voice in local synagogue governance and the national movement (Goldman, 2009). The implementation of the woman’s suffrage amendment to the United States Constitution confronted Reform Judaism leaders with the question of women’s religious leadership roles (Goldman, 2009).

Synagogues employed choirs of mixed male and female voices as an innovation to help redefine women’s places in Jewish worship; this challenges the Orthodox Judaism practice that prohibits allowing women’s voices to be heard within worship services (Goldman, 2009). Reconstuctionist Judaism promotes Jews to become familiar with as many elements of traditional Judaism as possible but allow the freedom of individual interpretation (Malloy, M, 2010). Reconstructionism views Judaism as a changing cultural force with many elements and manifestations (Malloy, M, 2010).

References
Goldman, K. (2009). Reform Judaism in The United States. Retrieved from http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/reform-judaism-in-united-states Malloy, M. (2010). Experiencing the World’s Religions. Tradition, Challenge, and Change Fifth Edition. Retrieved from Malloy, M, REL134-World Religious Traditions II website.

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