Crossing the Virtual Partition: Changing Jewish Rituals in Women’s Narratives


For many years excluded and marginalized, Jewish women have managed to alter the definitions of Jewish ritual in an attempt to find more self‑conscious ways of religious expression. My paper examines how literature reflects this process by demonstrating different strategies employed by women writers to bridge the gap created by androcentric narratives. Given the example of two novels: E.M. Broner’s A Weave of Women (1978) and Allegra Goodman’s Paradise Park (2001), I discuss the changing role of Jewish women in Judaism. Whether by mirroring the male rituals, or reshaping the existing foundations of Jewish practice and thought, they have managed to change the performance and conceptualization of modern Judaism; the process, which is by no means completed.

Key words: Judaism, ritual, Jewish women, American‑Jewish literature

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Brygida Gasztold
Koszalin University of Technology 
Brygida Gasztold, PhD, holds an MA degree and a doctorate degree from Gdańsk University, and a diploma of postgraduate studies in British Studies from Ruskin College, Oxford and Warsaw University. She is an assistant professor at Koszalin University of Technology, Poland. Her academic interests include American Jewish literature, Canadian Jewish literature, as well as the problems of immigration, gender, and ethnic identities. She has published To the Limits of Experience. Jerzy Kosiński’s Literary Quest for Self‑Identity (2008), Negotiating Home and Identity
in Early 20th Century Jewish‑American Narratives (2011) and essays on immigrant literature and ethnicity. Her next book Stereotyped, Spirited, and Embodied: Representations of Women in American Jewish Fiction will be published in 2015.