In the introduction, scholar-activist Plaskow traces her own journey from conventionally liberal Reform Jew and married graduate student to radical feminist theologian and lesbian. Her writings display an impressive knowledge of Jewish and contemporary issues and a bold creativity. Plaskow’s essay “The Coming of Lilith” (1972) remains a powerful metaphor for women’s empowerment. Her early statements on feminism are grounded in Protestant Christian concepts and language. Gradually, she finds sources for feminism in Jewish tradition. Plaskow rejects the “piecemeal” goals of the Jewish women’s movement, as represented by Rachel Adler and Cynthia Ozick. She is unwilling to settle for a piece of the Jewish pie; rather, she intends to participate in baking a new pie! Plaskow provides a radical critique of Torah. She argues for the creation of a theology to replace the patriarchal-based Judaism which casts women as “the other” and presents strategies to that end. She tackles difficult subjects such as Judaism’s masculine theological vocabulary, the suppression of God’s feminine attributes, the anti-semitism of Christian feminists and the idea of Jews as oppressors and sources of religious authority. The book’s final section, on sexuality, will be controversial, and offensive to some. Plaskow urges that a humane and inclusive Jewish system of sexual ethics be formulated. She derides “compulsory heterosexuality” and marriage as imposed norms, praising the “greater mutuality in intimacy constellations” among homosexuals. Plaskow documents the official stances of the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Movements in regard to sexual ethics. This work contains valuable insights, clearly expressed. However, as a whole, it is repetitive, with substantial overlapping among the essays.
Libby K. White is director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Library of Baltimore Hebrew University in Baltimore, MD and general editor of the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter.