Orthodox Judaism and women are strange bedfellows. The female has little place in orthodoxy and reconciling sexuality with orthodoxy has always been something very difficult to do. Kabakov’s new book takes a look at the challenges that face GLBT women in the Jewish religion who were once not allowed to say a word and who were invisible because of the rules and practices of Orthodox Judaism.
This, I believe, is the first book to deal with what happens to these women after they have struggled with their religion and then tried to find a place within it. We see here that it is not impossible to keep to Jewish tradition and maintaining gender identity at the same time. Those of us who are homosexuals and Jewish find ourselves wrestling with Judaism when the religion comes up against our sexual identities and our lives as those who are able to and want to share love. As modern citizens, we want a place in our religion and feel that Mosaic law provides such a place. However, it is the very religion that we love that tends to exclude us and for women this is so much more pronounced than for men.
This is a very, very important book which is sensitive, challenging, uplifting and very frustrating and it is a book like this that can prevent a great deal of heartache and it can even save lives. I am sure that some Orthodox rabbis will attempt to prevent it from being read.
The book is composed of some 16 essays, an introduction and foreword by Judith Plaskow as well as a glossary, a list of resources and information on the various contributors who touch on all aspects of the issue. Even as a man, I found each essay to challenge me about the nature of my own religious life and the aspects of gender of today’s world. Having being raised as an Orthodox Jew, I found myself hurting as I read. The women who contribute to this anthology carry the scars they have received yet as painful as it is to read what is written here, when I closed the covers, I felt a sense of triumph and respected greatly the power of these women. This is not just a book for Orthodox Jews but for anyone who cares about religion, spirituality and sexuality.