Jewish law held that only men were required or eligible to perform the act of

Jewish law held that only men were required or

This preview shows page 24 - 26 out of 29 pages.

Jewish law) heldthatonlymenwere requiredoreligibletoperformthe act ofaliyah(liter-ally,"ascent")—meaning,toclimbto thepulpitandreadfrom theTorah.C O M M U N I T I E S| 33This content downloaded from 146.96.128.36 on Mon, 20 Jan 2020 16:12:31 UTCAll use subject to
Sincealiyahis theprimary purposeof the barmitzvah service,noequiv-alent ceremonyforJewish women existed until1922.That year, RabbiMordechaiKaplan,arenownedbuticonoclastic Talmud scholarat theConservativemovement's Jewish Theological SeminaryofAmerica(NewYork),introducedtheterm"batmitzvah" intotheJewish lexicon whenhecalledhisdaughter, Judith,toreadfromtheTorah. Judith Kaplan'sbatmitzvah remainedacuriosity untilthe19505,when Conservativeand Re-formsynagogues slowly adoptedtheceremonyfor avarietyofreasons-rangingfromanideological commitmenttogender egalitarianism (proba-blynot awidespread sentiment)to amore calculatedefforttodrawalargernumberofgirls intotheJewish education system. Still,aslateas1955,amajorityofConservativeJudaism's CommitteeonJewishLawstill heldthathalakhaeither forbade womentoperformaliyahorpermitteditonlyonspecial occasions,and,even then, onlyaftertherequisite sevenmen hadbeen calledto theTorah.53Inthistheological climate, religious instructionforgirlswasneitherencouragednorparticularly rigorous.Ameasureofthis imbalanceis thefactthat,at thecloseofWorldWar II,girls comprised33.1percentof allJewsreceiving some formofreligious educationin NewYork.Notably, theyaccountedforalmost two-thirdsof thestudent populationinweeklySun-dayschools,theleast stringent instructional program.Bycontrast, therewas noappreciable gendergap inCatholic education. IrishandItalianparents enrolled their childreninparochial schools hopingtochecktheforcesofsecularism, while formal religion playedaless critical rolein NewYork'sJewishsubculture.54Asurveyof 400Jewish householdsinStuyvesantTown,aplanned resi-dential communityinManhattan, illustratedthispoint well.In1950theneighborhood's Jewish residents resembled postwar suburbanites morethanthetenuously middle-class,first- andsecond-generation Jewsof theDepressionera.Overthree-quarters were young parents betweentheagesof25and 34(comprising47percentof thelocal Jewish population)andtheirchildren (another29percent). Forty-two percentofthese well-educatedprofessionalswere involved with Jewish organizations. Forty-six percentwerefluent inYiddish,whileanadditional25percent understoodit.Yetonly10percentofStuyvesantTown Jews belongedto asynagogue,40percenthadreceivednoJewish schooling,andanother23percenthadattended onlySundayschools. StuyvesantTown'snewJewish residents seemtohaveself-identifiedasJews whilepassingover formal religiousobservance.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture