by Rebecca Krevat, NCJW Field Outreach Associate
I attended the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) International Conference in New York this past weekend expecting a day filled with sessions and conversations about important, but typical Orthodox women’s topics such as the Agunah crisis — women who are “chained” to marriages by religious authorities — and Partnership Minyans, prayer gatherings where women are able to participate in certain parts of the service.
It is definitely not a contradiction to be Orthodox and a feminist, but I often wish it were an easier road to that particular dual-identity. Orthodox women face all of the same struggles as women across the country, including the wage gap, sexual assault, domestic violence, and harmful stereotypes (just to name a few).
All women are judged according to the expectations of their society or community, and Orthodox women also face the burden of specific community expectations that they must live up to lest they be chastised. That’s why it was wonderful to see 800 other attendees at the conference grappling with the many questions of what it means to be Orthodox and also desire equality for women, or vice versa.
I left the JOFA Conference feeling hopeful that the space for the Orthodox feminism is widening. I was pleasantly surprised to see that JOFA covered topics that the wider feminist community struggles with as well, for instance in a session titled “Slut!” The Shame Effect.