Prell’s anthology traces the impact of three decades of feminism on Jewish life in America. The essays highlight how Jewish feminists “have re-envisioned Judaism…redefined Judaism, and… re-framed it,” influencing and inspiring Jews to define and integrate feminist values into Jewish practice in distinctive ways.
Essays address the radical revision of Judaism over three decades, including the development of the field of feminist theology. Also documented are efforts to accommodate feminist ideals without undermining the authority of the established tradition, such as the initiation of new Jewish rituals like women’s Rosh Chodesh celebrations and the creation of ritual objects to highlight women’s roles in the tradition, such as Miriam’s cup at the Passover seder. Especially noteworthy is the essay by Adriane Leveen, utilizing feminist biblical scholarship to investigate the popularity of the novel The Red Tent, to distinguish between excavation (searching inside the text for the feminine) and reconstruction (creating a fictitious presence of women in the text where before there was none). Also exceptional is Pamela Nadell’s essay reflecting on the first generation of women rabbis and their groundbreaking work to lend Jewish authority to their feminist critiques of Judaism. The essay by Rochelle Millen, too, reflecting on the expansive and profound field of Jewish feminist theology (including the writings of such diverse thinkers as Judith Plaskow, Marcia Falk, Tamar Ross, and Rachel Adler), provides a thoughtful and inspiring perspective on the interface between feminism and Judaism.
The timeline of Jewish and United States feminism at the end of the book includes important recent contributions to the Jewish feminist canon, though scholarship by the next generation of young women is absent from the text itself. Still, the anthology is extraordinary in its breadth and its depth: contributors range the gamut of Judaic scholarship and denomination.
The contributors to this anthology are the midwives of Jewish feminism: over the years, their voices created a revolution of thought and praxis in the Jewish world. Their reflections here comprise a gorgeous collection of writings — profound, provocative, and important. In editing Women Remaking American Judaism, Riv-Ellen Prell gifts the Jewish literary world again with their wisdom.