Gender Roles

Engage with the gendered dimensions of Jewish life and discover lost voices of Jewish women. 

Painting of men cutting cloth and women sewing. Jewish Museum in Prague.

Curated by Deborah Dash Moore and Noam Pianko

Gendered Ritual Roles

Jewish women had very clearly demarcated spaces in traditional Jewish rituals. All four of these visual sources illustrate examples of differentiated roles. Even while engaged in a shared ritual practice such as preparing bodies for burial, synagogue prayer, or a wedding ceremony, men and women occupied separate spaces. These images capture the gendered expectations, and efforts to preserve these customs, in a variety of ritual settings.

Etching of ceremony under marriage canopy outside a building, surrounded by people and framed by decorative motif.
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This glimpse into an eighteenth-century German Jewish marriage ceremony offers an opportunity to consider how gender roles have changed for this vital ritual.
Textile featuring paintings of various animals and a crown.
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Torah Binder

This Torah binder, made for boys at birth and later brought by young men as a symbol of participation in the synagogue, illustrates the fixed nature of traditional gender expectations.

Finding Women’s Voices

Changing gender norms in the early modern period created new venues for some Jewish women to begin to take on more influential roles as communal leaders. These sources point to the evolving position of women around the globe in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What changes can you see in these examples of Jewish women playing new roles in religious, literary, and artistic spheres?

Print of half-length portrait of woman in hat and dress with lace border, and Polish text underneath.
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Portrait of Eva Frank

Despite gender restrictions, Jewish women played central roles as religious leaders in the early modern period. Meet the female leader of one of the most controversial cults in Jewish history.

Other Curated Collections