Volume 14, 2009 : Women in Israeli Judaism

Changing Women’s Roles in Jewish Alternative Weddings in Modern Israel
Ana Prashizky
Sociological Institute for Community Studies, Bar-Ilan University
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ashkelon Academic College, Israel

Redressing gender balance is among the most important developments in the modern ritual field and liturgy. This article examines changing women’s roles in Jewish alternative wedding rituals in modern Israel that challenge the patriarchal nature of the Orthodoxy in a number of ways. Women are no longer passive figures at their own and others’ weddings, they may act as alternative wedding ritual experts; kidushin is performed in tandem when they betroth the grooms and recite a verse to express their love and commitment, and give a groom the ring. Women pronounce the blessings and also function as witnesses; financial premarital agreements and personalized forms of ketubah are equal documents. Other changes include linguistic altering of the name of God or blessings’ wording to feminine gender and alteration in other customs deemed sexist and patriarchal, such as covering the bride with the veil or breaking of the glass by the groom. Apparently, in alternative weddings women’s role and status have improved beyond recognition, granting them some symbolic equality with men in the ritual domain. Yet, this improvement may remain purely symbolic if it is not backed up by women’s more equal legal and economic rights secured by means of prenuptial agreements.

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