Reviewer: Pinsky’s Book Disentangles Judaism and Feminism

By Purnell T. Cropper | October 15, 2010

Case Western Reserve University’s Program in Judaic Studies journal Shofar includes a book review of the book Jewish Feminists: Complex Identities and Activist Lives (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010) by Dr. Dina Pinsky, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arcadia University.

Pinsky’s book also was reviewed in the Fall 2010 Jewish Book World, which noted that “the strongest feature of the book is Pinsky’s inclusion of a wide range of interviewees, including men as well as people from different types of Jewish backgrounds, in her study.”

A review in the Oct. 1 Buffalo Jewish Review notes that Pinsky’s research findings are organized into four chapters, the first being about “Torah Warriors,” women who worked “to change Jewish religious practices rabbis, rewriting liturgy, and becoming synagogue leaders.” Her second chapter deals with “secular or cultural Jews,” and the third with participants “who encountered anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the feminist movement.” The fourth chapter is on “pro-feminist men.”

In the Shofar review, Lori Hope Lefkovitz of Northeastern University writes, “The sociological analysis in Dina Pinsky’s Jewish Feminists, developed from interviews with two dozen women and five men, is clear, lively, and anecdotal, so much so that the reader may happily lose herself in the subjects’ stories until Pinsky gently reminds us that the assemblages from her conversations are actually in the service of an enterprise that is larger than oral history per se.

“Pinsky organizes the data from these interviews to illustrate and discuss significant concepts in identity and cultural theory, in particular, ‘intersectionality,’ that is, the place in one’s self understanding where different self-identifications collide, in this case, Jewish identity and feminist identity. Pinksy’s ‘book is about making sense of what it means to be composed of varied and dynamic selves,’ and she demonstrates how these Jews, who were active in the feminist movement in the 1970s, negotiated contradiction and ambivalence….

“Although to date inadequately studied (as Pinsky observes, academic attention to the intersectionality of race, class, and gender has curiously neglected the category of ‘Jews’), the particular intersectionality of Jewish and feminist identities is especially interesting because Jews understand what it means to be Jewish in many different ways.” Read the review.