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In the opening line of his latest column for The (New York) Jewish Week, Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt asks:
It’s a provocative question that relates to a familiar problem to anyone who’s spent time in synagogues or at Jewish organizations in the last 10 years: Judaism is going female.
While the highest echelons of leadership in the Jewish world remain stubbornly male, the grass roots of Judaism, in synagogues, youth groups and local organizations, is increasingly female. At a conference of young Jewish leaders I attended in November, 23 participants were women–nine were men.
Rosenblatt draws his concern from a study by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. (Note: Rosenblatt calls the study “recent,” but according to the website of the Cohen Center, it actually dates to 2000.):
Responding to this potential crisis, explains Rosenblatt, is a group called Moving Traditions, which had been focusing most of its energies on the self-image and behavioral problems of adolescent girls.
But it’s an open question whether it’s even possible to be equally welcoming to boys and girls. If Jewish involvement feels too female, many boys will avoid it. If it feels too male, many girls will avoid it. There are few activities that appeal equally to adolescent boys and girls (I know what you’re thinking–get your mind out of the gutter). The Jewish community has quite a challenge to overcome.
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