Justice, Equality, Prejudice & Discrimination

Justice, Equality, Prejudice & Discrimination

The role and status of women

The Orthodox Jewish tradition has more conservative views about women than the Reform tradition. However, neither branch of the Jewish faith has only one view – the position is more complex than that.

religious studyIn general, Orthodox Jews believe that women have a different role to play than men in both religion and in society and this view is based upon the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law. Most Orthodox Jews segregate men and women in the synagogue, insist on modest dress for women and enforce a period of separation of the sexes during menstruation.

Reform Jews believe in the equality of men and women, and do not separate the genders in the way that Orthodox Jews do. Nor do they insist on modest dress for women. Reform Jews also follow some different religious practices. For example, they allow women to read the Torah in public, something that is forbidden to women in the Orthodox tradition.


Prejudice and discrimination with reference to race

Most Orthodox Jews believe that Jews should not marry outside the faith. Their views are based on the Talmud which forbids interfaith marriage.

In spite of what the Talmud says most Reform and Liberal Jews are not opposed to interfaith marriage and even allow a Jewish marriage ceremony for couples where one is not Jewish.

Experience of persecution

religious studyJews have experienced persecution for many centuries, going back to the time when they were enslaved by the Egyptians.

In the intervening years the Jews have often been the victims of violent persecution, and in 1290 all Jews were expelled from England by Edward I. This edict was not formally overturned until 1656. Throughout history and in many different places, Jews were discriminated against and even murdered. There is even a special word ‘Pogrom‘ which describes the act of a mob murdering Jews and destroying their homes.

The worst persecution of the Jews was at the hands of the Nazis during the World War II. Hitler pursued a deliberate policy of exterminating all of Europe’s Jews and killed six million of them. This catastrophic event is called the Holocaust.

Think about how Jewish faith and religious beliefs have been shaped by the persecution they have suffered as a people.