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Modern Jewish Thought and Jewish Feminist Thought: An Uncommon Conversation



Modern Jewish thought is that area of Jewish thought that emerges in response to the Jewish encounter with modernity. It spans the earliest contributions of modern Jewish philosophers and religious reformers in 19th-century Europe to contemporary thinkers from Jewish communities around the world today. Jewish feminist thought also stands out as a vital stream within modern Jewish thought. Although most histories and anthologies of modern Jewish thought do not normatively include Jewish feminist thinkers as significant contributors to this intellectual history, selected Jewish feminist thinkers like Judith Plaskow and Rachel Adler should be integrated into modern Jewish thought’s disciplinary narrative. The following discussion of current scholarship in modern Jewish thought, modern Jewish philosophy and Jewish feminism places Jewish feminist thought firmly within the history, methods and subject of modern Jewish thought. Taking seriously the inherent inclusiveness of the term modern Jewish thought and redrawing its boundaries to explicitly include Jewish feminist thinkers exposes the shared concern of each discipline. Doing so foregrounds common themes and questions occasioned by modern Jewish life such as Israel, Jewish identity, tradition and halakha, the status and authority of sacred texts and revelation and the constitution and diversity of Jewish communities. Such a comparative approach also draws attention to dissonanceparticularly around questions of gender and sexuality in Judaism that are raised around transgender, gay and lesbian Jewish life and gender and halakah.