Jewish women are still treated as inferior, study says

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The Independent Online

The Jewish faith treats women as second-class citizens and alienates those in Orthodox communities, a report released yesterday says.

The Jewish faith treats women as second-class citizens and alienates those in Orthodox communities, a report released yesterday says.

The report, based on research carried out in London over the past two years, comes seven years after the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, recommended sweeping changes to social rules governing women. The aim of the reforms was to make women feel more involved in synagogues and religious life.

Dr Sacks particularly wanted to reform the Jewish system of religious divorce, or "get", which has been a vexed issue in Orthodox communities. Although the report says the issue is now on the agenda, there has been little progress.

Orthodox Jewish women denied a get by their husbands cannot remarry in a synagogue, while descendants from a second marriage are considered illegitimate for 10 generations.

The report, by Diane Webber for the Women in the Jewish Community group, found that London was behind other areas of Britain in introducing initiatives to benefit women. Progress on the general status of women in Orthodox communities had been "particularly disappointing", it said. "This is the one area where the Chief Rabbi might have been expected to act.

"Whilst we acknowledge there are some small improvements, unless these matters are dealt with comprehensively, many women ... will continue to feel alienated ... and newcomers will be deterred from joining."

There had also been little progress in ensuring girls had the same opportunities as boys and were included in ceremonies that made them feel part of the community. Instead many were left to feel like "second-class citizens".

The report said the gets issue was "decisively on the community agenda", but criticism of rabbis had made them reluctant to consult women on other matters. "The initiatives taken have been on the basis of what the rabbis believe women want. There has not been any invitation to women to be part of this process," it said.

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