Jew­ish Fem­i­nists: Com­plex Iden­ti­ties and Activist Lives

Dina Pin­sky
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

In Jew­ish Fem­i­nists, Dina Pin­sky recounts and ana­lyzes the Jew­ish iden­ti­ties of select­ed sec­ond-wave fem­i­nists, whose sto­ries she gath­ered through recent­ly con­duct­ed inter­views with the activists about their expe­ri­ences dur­ing the fem­i­nist and civ­il rights move­ments of 1960’s and 1970’s. Pinsky’s inter­views reveal the dif­fer­ent ways in which beliefs con­cern­ing Judaism and Jew­ish­ness inter­act­ed, and con­tin­ue to inter­act, with the fem­i­nist ide­olo­gies to which the inter­vie­wees were exposed in practice. 

Indeed, the strongest fea­ture of the book is Pinsky’s inclu­sion of a wide range of inter­vie­wees, includ­ing men as well as peo­ple from dif­fer­ent types of Jew­ish back­grounds, in her study. The author also makes cer­tain to inves­ti­gate and address how the inter­vie­wees’ Jew­ish iden­ti­ties may have changed over time. At bot­tom, this book is about par­tic­u­lar peo­ple and how those peo­ples’ expe­ri­ences may be uni­ver­sal­ized for a larg­er con­ver­sa­tion about Judaism and fem­i­nism in the women’s stud­ies community. 

Jew­ish Fem­i­nists offers a well-researched analy­sis of the com­pli­men­ta­ry yet some­times ten­sion-induc­ing inter­ac­tions between Judaism, Jew­ish­ness, and fem­i­nism. Despite its some­what nar­row reach, this book will fas­ci­nate any­one inter­est­ed in the expe­ri­ences of peo­ple from Jew­ish back­grounds or of Jew­ish faith dur­ing the shifts of soci­ety that took place dur­ing sec­ond-wave fem­i­nism. Appen­dix, index, notes.

Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

Discussion Questions