“I Think God Is a Feminist”: Art and Action by Orthodox Jewish Women
In this historical moment of heightened feminist consciousness among the public, still not enough is known about how women from traditional religious communities assert religious subjectivity in the face of institutional exclusion. This study spotlights Orthodox Jewish women (OJW), and specifically, the artists among them, asking, how do OJW use art to explore, express, and advance feminist ideals amid the opportunities and constraints posed by their religious community? Through in-depth interviews with forty-four OJW artists and leveraging the analytical tools of grounded theory and feminist methods, the authors found that art enabled the women to strategically navigate tensions between faith and feminism, broadcast feminist revisions to Orthodox theology, and translate personal to collective power. The inherently ambiguous nature of art protected the women from backlash as they sought to elevate their religious status in measured ways while still honoring their commitment to tradition.