This JewFem blog focuses on feminist issues in Jewish life. It tackles Jewish education, synagogue life, Israel, Jewish community, bits of pop culture, and more. This blog is written by Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman, writer, educator, and researcher, contributing writer at the Forward Sisterhood, author of the book, “The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World”.
With the election of Shelly Yachimovich to head Israel’s Labor Party, two major political parties are led by women for the first time in the country’s history. This is an encouraging development not only because it helps advance gender fairness in Israeli society, but also because it potentially signals a new era for Israeli politics, one that has implications for issues as wide-ranging as the military, the peace process, the role of the Haredim and the movement for social justice.
Israel, like most countries, is still struggling to create a more equitable society, in which women have the same access to power as men. In the political realm, there have been some improvements over the past decade, but not enough. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Israel currently ranks 57th in the world in female parliamentary representation, with 23 out of 120 (19.2%) female Knesset members. This percentage has fluctuated over the past few Knessets, but has never broken 20%. According to Yifat Zamir, executive director of the organization We Power, which promotes women in Israeli politics, there are only six women mayors in Israel out of 154 cities and towns; that’s a paltry 3.8%. Out of some 3,000 members of municipal councils, only 300 are women. So a Knesset with two female party heads is a major step forward.
Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman is a leading writer on issues of feminism, Judaism, Orthodoxy and education. Elana holds a doctorate in education and sociology from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and wrote her dissertation on the identity development of adolescent religious girls in schools. She then went on to do post-doctoral research, thanks to a grant from the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, on the "other" side of the mechitza, i.e., on identities of Orthodox men.
The Men's Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World investigates a fascinating new sociological phenomenon: Orthodox Jewish men who connect themselves to egalitarian or quasi-egalitarian religious enterprises. Sztokman interrogates the ideologies and motivations of more than fifty such men in the United States, Israel, and Australia.
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