“In The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World, Elana Maryles Sztokman probes the lives of Orthodox men who choose to attend ‘partnership’ synagogues that offer religious services... [continued in Reviews below]”—The New York Jewish Week
A provocative look at the inner world of Orthodox Jewish men who attend partnership synagogues
In this illuminating book, Elana Maryles Sztokman investigates a fascinating new sociological phenomenon: Orthodox Jewish men who connect themselves to egalitarian or quasi-egalitarian religious enterprises. She examines the men who have enabled these transitions by constituting the requisite ten-man prayer quorum of Orthodoxy. By participating in “Partnership Minyanim,” these men support the reconstruction of both male and female roles without leaving the Orthodox religious world.
Sztokman interrogates the ideologies and motivations of more than fifty such men in the United States, Israel, and Australia. Beginning with the “Orthodox Man Box” of conventionally constructed male behavior, she explores their struggles to navigate individualism and conformity, tradition and change. Setting their experiences in the context of gender role construction in traditional and contemporary synagogues, she shows how, for example, changes in leadership in Partnership Minyanim facilitate a fresh approach to liturgical expression, offering the possibility of reforming how modern Orthodox Jews attend services and pray.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“In The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World, Elana Maryles Sztokman probes the lives of Orthodox men who choose to attend ‘partnership’ synagogues that offer religious services that are traditional and egalitarian in nature, within the Orthodox world. The author studied the ideologies and behavior of more than 50 men in the United States, Israel and Australia.”—The New York Jewish Week
“Sztokman’s book provides the intellectual tools through which we can reconstruct traditional gender identity in novel ways. . . . [it is] a vital contribution well beyond the scene of liberal Orthodoxy.”—The Forward
“The author describes the little-discussed subject of life on the men’s side of the divider.”—Jerusalem Post
“It’s a story about tension, identity and dialogue. About living on the borders of a culture, yet still navigating within them. About negotiating, pushing back, and yes, acceptance. Its tale is particular, yet so universal that scholars and laymen all over the world are picking up Elana Sztokman’s new work.”—Times of Israel
“This groundbreaking sociological study sheds light on how Orthodox men are dealing with the challenge of feminism in an environment where choice is possible.”—Na’Amat Woman
“This book will be of interest to students of Jewish Orthodoxy, and a must-read for those interested in the Orthodox women’s feminist revolution.”—Sociology of Religion
"Sztokman's book made me realize that we may both be suffering from the same ambivalence between justice for women and the needs of men as Orthodox Jews do, although the ambivalence takes different forms within the two groups. At any rate, keep your eye out for anything that she writes because Sztokman has much to teach us about the natures of both women and men in this fast changing world."—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“The most important message of this book. . . is that until men understand that patriarchy is just as limiting for them as it is for women, little will improve for women unless we get men’s support—from the personal (help at home) to the political (paid family leave) to the spiritual (more religious leadership roles for women).”—Lilith
“For decades, those who support gender equality have believed that challenging Orthodox Judaism was a non-starter, an impossible dream. After all, aren’t these the guys whose morning prayer includes thanks for not being born a woman? And yet, from deep within the modern Orthodox temple come rumblings of change. Led initially by pioneering feminist women, Orthodox Jewish men are coming to see how gender equality is the fruition, not the antithesis, of their religious vision. This extraordinary book highlights the imperatives and the struggles towards that vision.”—Michael Kimmel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook, author of Manhood in America
“The Men’s Section is an important book telling a surprising story. Turns out the Orthodox men in egalitarian minyans aren’t there just for their wives. They’re reshaping their own masculinity, and thereby transforming the men’s club that is orthodoxy, seeking fulfillment in feminist values of emotional connection, albeit in often unconscious and contradictory ways. By insightfully examining men as agents of change in the Jewish gender order, Sztokman contributes to courageous efforts to pursue greater Jewish gender justice.”—Harry Brod, editor of A Mensch Among Men and Brother Keepers, Professor of Philosophy and World Religions, University of Northern Iowa
“I can only hope that when we have more women like Dr. Sztokman, who are learned, articulate, and committed to both equality and halachah, that things will eventually change.”—South Florida Jewish Journal
- Winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Womens Studies (2012)
ELANA MARYLES SZTOKMAN writes on gender issues for The Forward, and has taught at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies and Bar-Ilan University, among others.