What is the status of women in Judaism? From Past to Present

women in Judaism

There are two perspectives on women in Judaism. First is her temporal role, while the other is her spiritual status. The woman is believed to be closer to God due to her spiritual status.

In Judaism, woman depends economically on man. She does not get a share in the inheritance. However, if her husband dies, she must marry someone within the clan to keep inheritance within the family.

In ancient Jewish family traditions, matriarchy was in vogue. However, patriarchy replaced the Jewish traditions following a contract between Abraham and his god, Yahweh.

In medieval Europe, the woman was seen in the lights of the Bible and Talmud. The role of a Jewish woman in the Gentile societies was to cater to her family.

Gradually, the custom extended to the Jewish culture as well, although Judaism had bestowed an exalted status on its woman. However, the social status of women in Judaism was also reduced as an effect of living in Gentile societies.


Judaism later split into two sects. There were “Ashkenazi,” who belonged to parts of Eastern Europe and Germany. In the Ashkenazi sect, the women lived like men. Then, there were “Sephardi,” Jews who were expelled from Spain following the Reconquista of 1492.

image via Flickr

In medieval ages, a Jewish woman was allowed to receive religious education. She could go to Synagogue to take part in prayers and rituals.

According to ancient tradition, the women had separate chambers in Synagogues. Unlike in Islam, marriage was not a civil contract in Judaism. It was a religious pledge between man and wife, that had a sacred status.

Also, the Jewish religious leaders devised laws related to domestic violence, marriage, and divorce.

Marriage is a significant institution in Judaism. Moreover, if a woman, perturbed by her man’s excesses, seeks a divorce, she could go to court. She could file for a divorce, even if she did not like her husband’s face.

However, divorce is not a common practice among the Jews, as beating or mistreating women is a very despicable practice in Judaism.

A woman cannot only have the right to divorce, but she is also entitled to claim a fine if her grievance against the husband is proven.

A Jewish woman was allowed to receive a limited education so that she could handle the day-to-day domestic accounts of her household.

With time, Judaism saw subsequent changes. On one side, some conservatives want to keep alive the ancient religious traditions, including the age-old role of the woman.

Synagogue of Ploiesti

On the other hand, some advocate modernity. They want to liberate women from the burden of her historical role as defined by the conservatives.

In the contemporary age, the Jews living in the US and Europe have adapted themselves with the western culture. However, they have retained their distinct identity as well.

Their women also take part in temporal activities like their Christian counterparts.

However, in many eastern countries where Jews are living, they are still bound by medieval conservatism.

In Israel, too, the conservative religious circles are tending to define the role of women according to old traditions.

Related: The Patriarchal History of Rape and Women as a war weapon

About Abubakr Farrukh

Abubakr FarrukhMy focus is on politics, history, religion, and philosophy of life. I present news analysis and opinion on current affairs and occasionally produce satire articles

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