Offers a rare look at the world of Hasidic women activists in the years since World War II, and how they have challenged the rise of American feminism.
Lubavitcher Women in America offers a rare look at the world of Hasidic women activists since World War II. The revival of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in the second half of the twentieth century has baffled many assimilated American Jews, especially those Jewish feminists hostile to Orthodox interpretations of women's roles. This text gives voice to the lives of those Hasidic women who served the late Lubavitcher Rebbe as educators and outreach activists, and examines their often successful efforts to recruit other Jewish women to the Lubavitcher community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Central to this book is how Lubavitcher women have "talked back" to American feminist thought. Arguing that American feminism cannot liberate Jewish women—that a specifically Jewish spirituality is more appropriate and fulfilling—Lubavitcher women have helped to swell the ranks of their Rebbe's followers by aggressively promoting the appeal of traditional, structured Jewish observance. The book thus offers a unique look at female anti-feminist religious rhetoric, articulately presented by Jewish "fundamentalists. "
Bonnie J. Morris is Visiting Assistant Professor at George Washington University. Her previous work includes The High School Scene in the Fifties: Voices from West L. A.
"Morris carefully peels the layers of complexity and contradiction surrounding the ultra-Orthodox world in relation to secular society and feminism. Most importantly, she explains the tension between gender and ethnic affiliation in this Hasidic, post-Holocaust context. There is no room for dismissal of these women in Morris's writing, because she documents their struggle to seek fulfillment—surely a form of liberation—as they define it. The book is respectful, critical and analytical, and contains an armload of insight about the interplay of feminism and anti-feminism in this brief history of a community. " — Jeanne Henry, Hofstra University