Women in the Rabbinate and in American Fiction: A Literary and Ethnographic Study

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Title: Women in the Rabbinate and in American Fiction: A Literary and Ethnographic Study
Author: Bogdanoff, Helene Rebecca
Advisors: Deborah Hooker, Committee Member
Steven B. Katz, Committee Chair
Nick Halpern, Committee Member
Abstract: The purpose of this research has been to describe the conflicts of gender and Judaism in American Fiction containing women rabbis as central characters. Jewish women for centuries have accepted their roles in Jewish life and observances. Jewish women of the twentieth century questioned why they too could not be rabbis, which led to the ordination of the first women rabbi in 1972. The fiction written on women rabbis faces the challenges to portray the spiritual and social equality of the women rabbis while keeping in tact and honoring the parts of Jewish tradition that appear to be most crucial or defining. This thesis presents Jewish laws and traditions having to do with women, showing the conflicts between Jewish tradition and female rabbis in the plots of six novels and two short stories written on the subject. The sexual nature of the fiction written on this subject presents contemporary Judaism with a number of problems. I describe the representations of innovations in Judaism surrounding these issues, and then I relate the issues in Judaism back to the novels and short stories. For this thesis, I interviewed three female rabbis from the North Carolina Triangle area. The interviews reveal certain unresolved anxieties and issues in Judaism and how American Judaism might react to the presence of women as viable members of the rabbinate in the future. Thus, this project provides a discussion of the inherent and new issues in American Judaism that are brought about by the ordination of female rabbis and portrayed in American fiction.
Date: 2006-04-27
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2637

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