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Religions 2018, 9(11), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110332

Whence Orthodox Jewish Feminism? Cognitive Dissonance and Religious Change in the United States

Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, MS 014, Brandeis University, P.O. Box 549110, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA
Received: 6 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 25 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
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Abstract

A large literature on feminist theology and philosophy of religion has explored the various ways in which feminism has reshaped religious thought and practice within different faith traditions. This study uses Festinger’s (1965) cognitive dissonance theory and the 2017 Nishma Research Survey of American Modern Orthodox Jews to examine the effect of tension between feminism and Orthodox Judaism on lay men and women. For 14% of Modern Orthodox Jews, issues related to women or women’s roles are what cause them “the most pain or unhappiness” as Orthodox Jews. The paper examines the sociodemographic characteristics associated with this response and tests whether those who experience this cognitive dissonance are more likely to (1) advocate for changes in the role of women within Orthodox Judaism and/or (2) experience religious doubt. The analysis reveals that these individuals overwhelmingly take a feminist stance on issues related to women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism, and they also manifest more religious doubt. The paper discusses the dual potential of cognitive dissonance to either spur changes in women’s religious roles in traditional religious communities and/or threaten the demographic vitality of those communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: cognitive dissonance; religion; feminism; Jews; Orthodox cognitive dissonance; religion; feminism; Jews; Orthodox
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Shain, M. Whence Orthodox Jewish Feminism? Cognitive Dissonance and Religious Change in the United States. Religions 2018, 9, 332.

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