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Perceived domestic and religious power of Jewish women
AdvisorStebbins, Robert A.
AuthorMiller, Susan W.
LccHQ 1172 M54 1971
LcshWomen, Jewish - Social conditions
Power (Social Sciences)
Women in Judaism
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThe relative power of women in our society has been much debated and analyzed in the sociological literature with conclusions varying only slightly: women, in general, we are told, have no real power. Careful analysis of previous studies into power reveals that an accurate understanding of women in this regard was impossible either because of the definition of power used or because of the methodological approach or because of both. Further, religion has been found to be a major source of restriction and socialization of women in the area of power. Herein lies the impetus for the study undertaken here. This exploratory research examines Jewish women's definitions of their own situations as these relate to their perceived power. A semi-structured interview was used which allowed respondents to contribute their personal ideas to the study. Topics of discussion included decision-making within the home and synagogue, the relative importance and frequency of each type of decision, the role and status of women within Judaism, the impact of parental culture and religious background, the attitudes toward the ordination of women within Judaism, and the exclusion of women from the praying quorum. Also addressed were the definition of the mothering role for Jewish women, the obligation to bear and rear children, and the variables of age, education, paid work outside the home, and denomination of Judaism with which the women identified. These were treated as possible explanatory factors for the variability found in the perceptions of power. A number of conclusions emerged. First, Jewish women and men share power. Each has their own circle of control, but neither has so much power as to dominate the other. Jewish women control the domestic sphere, but men participate in domestic decision-making and household duties. The care of children is a primary responsibility for women according to Jewish law, but men take part in some of the required duties in this regard (i.e., taking time off from work to care for a sick child). Jewish men control the religious sphere, but women, through the sisterhood, raise the funds necessary to run and maintain the synagogue and vote on issues pertaining to the congregation. Second, in contradiction to the psychoanalytic view of power, Jewish women can control and define the mothering role. This is illustrated by their ability to delegate the chores of childrearing to others. Further, the women interviewed maintained that they were under no obligation to bear children even if the men are obliged to try to produce them. Finally, factors such as age, branch of Judaism with which the woman identified, and stories of persecution and survival were found to be related to perceived power. No relationship was found between education and perceived power.
Bibliography: p. 106-120.
CitationMiller, S. W. (1991). Perceived domestic and religious power of Jewish women (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/16492
InstitutionUniversity of Calgary
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