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Feminism no Burning Issue for Jewish Students

[Editor’s note: The following report from the North American Jewish Students Network convention last winter in Toronto is strictly an assessment of how important Jewish feminism is for the students from throughout the United States and Canada who attended the convention. It is not a report on the major developments that occurred there.]

TORONTO– I talked with many delegates of both sexes to try to gauge the importance of Jewish feminism for Jewish students today. The results were quite discouraging. Many women appeared to be unconcerned about the status quo or unwilling to do more than utter a vague protest. They seemed to see Jewish feminism as an issue which did not interest them rather than as a way of thinking. Men often wanted to refer me to their female colleagues, seeing Jewish feminism as a “woman’s issue.” Some people had never heard of Jewish feminism.

Rachel Adler, who conducted a study session on I.B. Singer’s story “Yentl,” felt that those previously involved in Jewish feminist activities are still involved, but the waves of feeling present a few years ago no longer seem to exist. The problem is that we do not seem to be attracting newcomers.

Of the five sets of workshops, four included a session relating specifically to Jewish feminism; unfortunately the one entitled “Jewish Feminism” was canceled when an entire set of workshops had to be omitted. In terms of resource people, it was encouraging that women who had feminist backgrounds were leading seminars on a variety of issues (i.e., religious expression, student activism); however, the ratio of male to female workshop leaders was 2:1.