Orthodox Jewish women are increasingly seeking new ways to express themselves religiously, and important changes have occurred in consequence in their self-definition and the part they play in the religious life of their communities. Drawing on surveys and interviews across different Orthodox groups in London, as well as on the author’s own experience of active participation over many years, this is a thoroughly researched study that analyses its findings in the context of related developments in Israel and the USA. Sympathetic attention is given to women’s creativity and sophistication as they struggle to develop new modes of expression that will let their voices be heard; at the same time, the inevitable points of conflict with the male-dominated religious establishment are examined and explained. There is a focus, too, on the impact of innovations in ritual: these include not only the creation of women-only spaces and women’s participation in public practices traditionally reserved for men, but also new personal practices often acquired on study visits to Israel which are replacing traditions learned from family members. This is a much-needed study of how new norms of lived religion have emerged in London, influenced by both the rise of feminism and the backlash against it, and also by women’s new understanding of their religious roles.
'Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz's in-depth study of the religious experience of Orthodox women raises questions for the rabbinic establishment... an important new book.'
Simon Rocker, The Jewish Chronicle
'Taylor-Guthartz's precise academic writing, interwoven with her own personal knowledge and experience of the community, gives the women represented here agency and authority, exemplifying how traditional groups and practices do not exist at odds with the modern world, or even in parallel, but rather as an integral part of it, adding rich diversity and colour to the pattern of Jewish life today. This is a timely and important treatise, reflecting modern feminist values and shining a light on a previously unexamined segment of the community.'
Noa Gendler, Jewish Renaissance
'Challenge and Conformity opens up for our understanding a subject of immense importance to Judaism and the Jewish community. The religious lives of Orthodox women is a topic that has previously attracted little research. Taylor-Guthartz approaches it with academic skill and real empathy for the women she interviews and their communities. We learn of the great variety of women’s beliefs, customs and practices that are spread across the Orthodox Jewish world and, through Taylor-Guthartz’s eyes, we gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Jewish life that might otherwise have remained hidden.'
Neville Teller, The Jerusalem Post