The Challenges of Raising Jewish Daughters

We have not, as yet, held a simchat bat for our newest daughter. I have a slew of excuses at hand (she was a summer baby, everyone was away; how could I make one for my eldest and youngest, but not my middle?), but I know these are just excuses, and that the real reason is that with three young children, I am barely keeping my head above water, and I am happy not to be obligated. At the same time, I feel I am betraying the realization of the feminist Judaism I wish for, as well as the daughters for whom I am trying to model religion and community. Even if I can live with this, how will I explain this to my girls when they are old enough to ask what we did to welcome them?

Earlier this month I attended the upsherin for the son of close friends (an upsherin is a ceremonial first haircutting of a boy after he turns three, marking the age of commencement of Torah study and formal education). It was beautiful and meaningful, and I once again felt a sense of exclusion that this lifecycle event exists only for boys (although unlike the bris, it is not obligatory). I felt this keenly as the upsherin is connected to education in general and the study of the Jewish text that defines us in particular.

My husband and I toyed with the idea of holding an upsherin for P, to make up for not giving her a simchat bat, but we both feel uncomfortable co-opting a male ritual for our daughter. Even this thought, which once would have been just a thought, I now feel the need to parse closely and arrive at a well-considered conclusion. For my choices and beliefs now extend far past my own needs, to the growth of my daughters into both committed Jews and committed feminists.

This blog will be dedicated to the challenges of raising Jewish daughters, from handling the male-dominated stories of our holidays and our texts, to setting priorities in choosing a synagogue and schools. What challenges have you faced? What solutions have you hit upon? Which choices are personal, and what responsibilities should be communal?

Image from Katie Tegtmeyer via photopin cc

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