Synopses & Reviews
A vigorous portrayal of the effects of a distinct form of feminism on the spiritual and secular lives of Jewish women.
Today's Jewish women, successfully availing themselves of the increased educational and occupational opportunities that feminism has encouraged, feel a new sense of self and entitlement. Yet as feminist advances have opened possibilities, they also have called into question traditional roles. The challenge to Jewish women today is to preserve the Jewish community and guarantee its survival while creating meaningful new social and spiritual models that respond to feminist enlightenment. Drawing on interviews with Jewish women from eighteen to eighty across the United States, as well as on new demographic data, scholarship, literature, and media, A Breath of Life explores the full panorama of contemporary options for Jewish women striving to combine community family and individual needs. Through the voices of these women, Sylvia Barack Fishman demonstrates the ways feminism has transformed both their secular and spiritual lives. Ceremonies such as bat mitzvah, which accepts women into the Jewish fold, are now widely practiced, and girls receive as much Jewish education as boys. The vast majority of adult women pursue both vocational and avocational interests, marry and have children, and choose their own religious options. A Breath of Life charts the course these women navigate, and explores the challenges and pleasures they find along the way. Tracing the emergence and development of a distinctly Jewish form of feminism, which has grown alongside the larger feminist movement but which specifically addresses the concerns of Jewish women, Fishman shows how it has done more to revitalize American Judaism than any other factor in the past two decades. Just as Eastern European Jews at theturn of the century and Holocaust survivors after World War II brought a religious intensity to American Jewish communities, today feminism is providing a fresh wave of enthusiastic reinterpretation and participation in American Jewish life. From study groups, to participation in services, to leadership in the community Jewish women are more involved than ever in Jewish life.