Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jewish nuns

One question that I've often thought about is the place of the single (never-married, divorced or widowed) woman in the Jewish community.  If she still has kids, she of course is consumed with all the rights and responsibilities of motherhood.  But when there are no children, or the children have moved out, what then?  True, there are some chesed organizations that accept volunteers.  But there has to be more to life than handing out challah at Maimonides, organizing Chinese auctions, and saying tehillim.  Not to mention--a lot of the women who do these activities are married anyway.
So, what about the idea of the Jewish nun?
Unlike Catholic nuns, who take lifelong vows and "marry" the Church, a Jewish nun would have no such obligation  She would still be free to date and marry.  However, it would be a way for her to be a part of the Jewish community without constantly hearing about "Miri's daughter got engaged" or "Oy, Yanky fell off his bike."  Specifically, Jewish nuns would have their room and board provided.  In exchange, they would teach in the schools, perform volunteer activities, and run hosting centers for people visiting out-of-town areas.  They would also spend their time in the study of all Jewish texts, becoming experts in halacha so that they can advise women on sensitive matters (and all my married readers know what I'm talking about).  Gemara study would be permitted and  encouraged, but not required.  However, members would not be called upon to lead services.  Membership is open to all single Jewish women who no longer have children living with them, including agunot.


  1. I think unencumbered Jewish women, even pious ones, might be interested in other things that teaching sacred texts. What about travel, reading, adult education? What about a knitting club? What about (for Lord's sake) fulfilling paid employment (with an appropriate percentage of income donated to charity)? Don't know where the idea of nuns came from.

  2. No one's saying that everyone SHOULD do it. However, it gives those who want the option of deeper involvement a way of doing so without the halachic complications implicit in semicha.

    1. Oh, now I get it. I didn't relate your post to the "Maharat" situation at all.

  3. My aunt (who is an agunah) runs a day-care in her apartment.

    I like you idea, but why should Jewish study of the sort you describe be closed to married women and women with children at home?

  4. Never happen. The community wants to shame and coerce women into accepting one of their many sub-par men. The idea of raising the bar when it comes to Jewish men isn't an option, either.


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