Talmud for Boys, Challah-Making for Girls—Gender Rules in Orthodox Day Schools
Gender-typing is at work as early as daycare. A new book examines how this inequity plays out and undermines religious classrooms.
In the past several decades, it has become increasingly common to find religious women who are doctors, professors, scientists, and rabbis. Yet while they’ve gained acceptance as professionals in their community, their children often get very different messages in Jewish day schools about acceptable and unacceptable gender roles. There, rigorous training in Jewish thought, or math and science, for that matter, may be offered to boys only, while girls may find that more attention is paid to the length of their sleeves, and skirts, than to their questions about Rashi.
Differential treatment of boys and girls is not unique to Jewish day schools. But for those invested in giving their kids a religious education, it should be cause for great concern. So argues Elana Sztokman in Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools, co-written with Chaya Rosenfeld Gorsetman and the recent winner of a National Jewish Book Council Award. Sztokman speaks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about how schools can squash girls’ spiritual desires, what Jewish modesty rules erroneously teach kids about sexual desire (men have it; girls don’t), and why changes in the Orthodox world offer hope for gender parity.
The late author’s work was Talmudic in nature. That’s why his books made me miss the Jewish texts I’d left behind.