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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are against the patriarchal and authoritarian stereotypes of their community

Ultra-Orthodox women are the main earners of the family. Menahem Kahana / AFP ultra-Orthodox Jews via Getty Images have received a lot of news lately, partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a few exceptions, the story presents the ultra-Orthodox Jews as an authoritarian and patriarchal community that resists public health measures even during a pandemic. This story has dominated the coverage of this community for decades, and it comes from its focus on ultra-Orthodox men. Male community leaders have been quoted in the media, and men are more prominent in the crowd protesting and resisting blockades. This reinforces both the obedient attempt to silence and eliminate women and the external view of women within the community as an internal attempt. However, given the gender separation in the ultra-Orthodox community, it is not possible to collect the whole picture of this society from men alone. And when you look at the ultra-Orthodox women, you can see pictures of major social changes. Women in the community are increasingly making reproductive decisions, working outside the home and resisting rabbi authority. Religious decision maker As a gender and Jewish-focused religion scholar, I interviewed a Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox woman about her reproductive experience for two years from 2009 to 2011. You can see that what I heard at that time is reflected in the dynamics of today’s Israeli ultra-Orthodox community. We talked about their pregnancy-an average of about 7 children in ultra-Orthodox women-and about their choice of contraception and prenatal testing. Most notably from our conversations and the hours of observation I made in clinics and hospitals, after a few pregnancies, ultra-Orthodox women began to dominate reproductive decisions. was. This is contrary to what the rabbis expect from them. Rabbi expects ultra-Orthodox men and women to come to them for medical guidance and permission. Knowing this, both male and female doctors may ask women requesting hormonal contraceptives, “Did your rabbi approve this?” This relationship fosters distrust among ultra-Orthodox women and guides them away from both doctors and rabbis when it comes to reproductive care. However, this refusal of external authority over pregnancy and childbirth is supported by the ultra-orthodox belief that pregnancy is the time when women embody God’s authority. Therefore, female reproductive authority is not completely anti-cultural. It is embedded in ultra-orthodox theology. Gender separation of the main earners has long been a hallmark of ultra-Orthodox ritual life, but men and women now live very different lives. In Israel, ultra-Orthodox men spend most of their days at the Correll or Religious Institute studying sacred Jewish texts. This mission earns them a modest benefit from the government. The community still values ​​poverty, but ultra-Orthodox women are the main earners. Over the last decade, they have been increasingly attending college and graduate school to support large families. In fact, they are now joining the workforce at the same rate as their secular peers, building new careers in areas such as technology, music and politics. New Cultural Expressions Several recent television shows portray this kind of subtle understanding of gender and authority among ultra-Orthodox Jews. For example, consider the last season of the Netflix series “Shtisel”. On the television show, a young ultra-Orthodox woman from Mizrahi, Shira Levi (referring to Jews in the Middle East and North Africa) is conducting scientific research. She has a relationship with one of the main Ashkenazi, or European Jewish characters. Their ethnic differences are a source of greater tension than White’s academic interests. Another character, Tovi Stissel, is a mother who works as a teacher outside the house. Despite opposition from her husband, a Corel student, she bought a car to get to work more efficiently. And finally, Lucami, who first appeared as a teenager in Season 1, enthusiastically marries a Talmud scholar, but suffers from a serious, life-threatening pregnancy. Despite her commitment to ultra-Orthodox life, she ignores rabbi and medical decisions. After her rabbi’s decision that she should not give birth to another child because of her medical risk, Lucami decided to become pregnant without anyone’s knowledge. Lucama Weiss played by Shira Haas in the Netflix series “Shtisel”. Netflix These characters reflect my research that ultra-Orthodox women have a very different relationship with men from rabbi authority and proclamation. But this is not just due to changes in women’s attitudes. For years, ultra-Orthodox societies have experienced what is called the “crisis of authority.” Today, the proliferation of new formal and informal leaders has led to the spread of authority. In addition to many rabbis in the ultra-Orthodox community, their assistants or informal helpers called Askanim are widely active. Ultra-Orthodox women also look to theories repackaged in ultra-Orthodox languages, such as vaccination campaigns. And finally, the ultra-Orthodox Jews created an online group to challenge the authority of the major rabbis. Awareness of Diversity The predominance of one story about the reaction of ultra-Orthodox Jews to the COVID-19 pandemic ignores other reasons why the virus spreads so rapidly and catastrophically in these communities. Interviews with women would have revealed that poverty and cramped living spaces make social distance almost impossible. These conversations also consider the 93-year-old ultra-Orthodox rabbi Rabbi Chime Kaneifsky, who has nurtured important supporters, to be the “king of COVID” for refusing public health measures. However, it would have revealed that there is no single rabbi. A follower of all Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews. In fact, many Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews follow the COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, attention to women’s complex experiences in health care institutions would have highlighted the distrust and suspicion that pervades the relationship of the ultra-Orthodox community to public health measures. It’s easy to demonize people who may not follow medical guidelines during a public health crisis. However, I believe that ultra-Orthodox Jews are diverse and understanding their complexity will enable better medical information and care to reach these people. [3 media outlets, 1 religion newsletter. Get stories from The Conversation, AP and RNS.]This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by Michal Raucher of Rutgers University. Read more: The FBI reaches out to Hasidic Jews to fight anti-Semitism-but the bureau is full of Jewish history amid the proliferation of COVID-19 in ultra-Orthodox territories. .. The Glen Foundation completes research related to her first book.