New York (Dec. 28)
A “disconcerting trend toward anti-Semitism” in the writings of some Christian feminists was the focus of attention at a recent conference of 175 lay and ordained Catholic, Jewish and Protestant feminists.
Annette Daum, coordinator of the department of interreligious affairs of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), asserted that “by seeking to prove that Christianity is not inherently ant-feminist,” some scholars have unintentionally incorporated past anti-Semitic prejudices “by attributing anti-feminist elements of Christianity to Judaic heritage.”
Daum spoke at the second annual convention of Feminists of Faith, a national network of feminists of various faiths formed a year-and-a-half ago to combat sexism in religion. Its major aim is “to transform patriarchal religions into egalitarian systems that will permit women to enter more fully into religious life and enable them to serve God and humanity more completely.”
Daum said “a tendency to interpret Judaism in the worst possible light and Christianity in the best has led some Christian writers to see Jesus, alone in his culture, as a feminist.” After citing examples of feminist ideas in early Jewish tradition to counter that notion, she concluded: “Neither the Christian nor Judaic tradition has lived up to its ideals in the treatment of women.”
She told the conference, titled “Moving Beyond Blame,” that “this is the first generation of women that can band together to challenge the second-class status of women” in both Judaism and Christianity.
BLAMING JUDAISM FOR MISOGYNY
Deborah Vansau McCauley, a convenor of the Task Force on Jewish-Christian Relations of the Feminist Theological Institute, declared there was a tendency among Christian feminists “to explicitly or implicitly blame Judaism for beginning misogyny.”
The argument that “Jesus was a feminist,” she contended, “casts others in a worse light.” She challenged this argument and termed it “revisionist history,” saying “it requires an implicit anti-Judaism to support it. To this, Christian feminists must say ‘Never again.’ We shall find a better way to call Christian institutions into accountability.’”
Dr. Madeleine Boucher, Associate Professor of New Testament in the Department of Theology at Fordham University, pointed out that “the role of women in the church is always in reference to the subordinate place of women in the creation order described in
Genesis. This is the only theological argument for the subordination of women to men and therefore deserves careful study.”
Boucher, who is engaged in a study of St. Paul’s writings about women, asserted that both his negative and positive writings on this subject derive from Judaism. She concluded: “I don’t think it can be said that Paul took a giant step beyond the rabbis of his time.”
URGES ‘EVILS’ BE ERADICATED
Dr. Carter Heyward, Associate Professor of Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass, and an Episcopalian minister, contended that Christianity has been used to foster sexism, anti-Semitism and anti-Black attitudes. She called on feminists to eradicate “these evils.”
Nina Cardin, editor of Conservative Judaism and a past director of the Jewish Women’s Resource Center, noted that inscriptions on recently unearthed tombstones from the first century reveal that Jewish women occasionally had titles in synagogues. “These may have been simply honorific,” she said, “but it is quite likely that they described actual executive posts.”
Sponsors of the conference, which was held at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, were the Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches, department of interreligious affairs of UAHC, District 3 of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, Feminist Theological Institute of New York State, National Board of the YWCA, Manhattan Region of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, New York Women’s Ordination Conference, Task Force on Equality of Women in Judaism, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network.