National Religious women want equality in domestic roles and career opportunities study finds

Forty-three percent of the respondents said that wearing trousers was fine, whereas 57% said it was inappropriate and dangerous.

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April 17, 2016 20:50
4 minute read.
Pray at the Western Wall.

A religious woman and a female soldier pray at the Western Wall.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Women in the national-religious community believe they have to work, that it is possible for them to balance work and family life, and that sacrifices of one’s career for the sake of the family should be shared by both husband and wife, a comprehensive survey of women in the community published on Sunday found.

The study, conducted by the Miskar research group for Nashim magazine, also reported important findings regarding the opinions of women in the national-religious public regarding their place in society and the role in family life, as well as showing significant support for an increased role in religious life.

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The poll was conducted on a sample of 300 women over the age of 16, 27 percent of whom said they were from the religiously conservative wing of the community, 37% from the mainstream and 23% from the liberal national- religious sector, while 13% did not further define their societal affiliation beyond being national religious.

Of those polled, 73% said that women in Israel had no choice but to work, and that society should alter its attitude to women with professional careers.

At the same time, 80% said that it was possible to balance a career with taking care of the family, although 43% of respondents said that women in the sector found it hard to develop their career because of the demands of the home and family.

And 53% of respondents agreed that one person in the marriage needed to make sacrifices in his or her career for the sake of the family but that husbands and wives should participate equally in such sacrifices.

Forty percent of respondents agreed that a woman should dedicate the majority of her time to her family, and only afterward develop a career, while 42% disagreed with the remainder neutral on the issue.

And 65% of those surveyed said that the various duties and tasks involved in home and family life should be shared equally between both parents, while 58% agreed that gender should not determine either a man or woman’s place in the family and in society, with 26% disagreeing.

However, 51% of women polled said that despite their view, there exists within the national-religious sector a stereotypical perception of gender roles for men and women, compared to 33.6% who disagreed with the assertion and 15.9% who had no opinion.

The survey also looked at some of the religious issues the sector is dealing with and which have gained attention in the media and from the rabbinic leadership of the community.

Of those polled, 46.5% said that women should be allowed to immerse in a mikve without an attendant present, while 53.5% said that they should not.

This issue has made headlines of late, with activists asserting that women who insist on maintaining their privacy and do not wish for an attendant to be present when they immerse in a mikve, as currently required at public mikvaot, should be able to do so.

The ITIM religious services advisory and lobbying group filed a petition to the High Court of Justice last year to force local religious councils which operate mikvaot to comply with the wishes of such women.

In another important finding, 58% of the women said they are in favor of female enlistment to the IDF from the national-religious sector.

Rates of enlistment among young women in the sector have been increasing in recent years, to the consternation of the rabbinical leadership of the conservative wing of the community.

Some 41% of respondents said that women should not teach Torah and religious classes to men, although 26% said that this was desirable and 33% said they were neutral on the issue.

However, 76% of the women polled said that it was desirable for women to issue religious rulings pertaining to issues of family purity and other religious concerns for women, showing strong backing for what has recently become a widespread phenomenon in the sector.

A quarter of respondents said that it was desirable for women to be allowed to say the kaddish mourners’ prayer out loud during services, a prayer which is traditionally recited in Orthodox practice only by men, compared to 42% who said it was not desirable.

These findings were almost exactly mirrored regarding women performing religious duties in the home such as reciting kiddush, saying havdala, and other ceremonies.

And 43% of the respondents said that wearing trousers was fine, whereas 57% said it was inappropriate and dangerous.

“This survey indicates a positive trend of a generation [of women] that is strong and going forward,” said Hili Moyal, editor of Nashim.

“Despite a certain conservatism and clear boundaries, the survey shows women in the sector desire greater equality in their lives, partnership on issues of Jewish law, and see themselves as able to lead and to actualize their potential in their careers while still able to protect the values of Torah and family.”


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