The Power of Interpretation: Religious Scholars Elevate the Status of Female Guardians in Jewish Law

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The article focuses upon a method that can bridge the gap between the requirements of the ideology of western liberal societies or international norms and the rejection of this ideology or these norms in some traditional cultures and societies. It stresses that maximal promotion of adherence to feminist values in traditional societies can be achieved through the internal approach, within religious law. Religion is not static. Religious groups and religious countries are influenced by changes in society. However, many times they do not state that external influence led them to the change they adopted. They respect their traditional ideology and the outlook in the texts of their ancient Sages and have to take into consideration the limits of evolution in their legal system. An attempt to introduce a reform that religious law can accept can bear good fruit. Consequently, a new interpretation of religious law is useful. The attempt to enhance feminist ideology in religious-traditional societies and countries will be most effective and successful when religious scholars will interpret religious law in light of the new approach of equality between men and women. The main focus in this essay is upon the promotion of a feminist agenda in one religious system: Jewish law. Especially in the twentieth century the rules of guardianship of women in Jewish law were interpreted in a manner that enhanced equality. This is not an isolated phenomenon. It proves that woman in traditional societies can benefit from the internal approach of interpretation of religious law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-547
Number of pages19
JournalCardozo Journal of Law & Gender
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • religious law
  • traditional ideology
  • Interpretation
  • feminist agenda
  • Jewish law


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