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Ultra-orthodox Jewish Women Go to Work

Secular Education and Vocational Training as Sources of Emancipation and Modernization

Giorgia Foscarini    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



In the last three decades the ultra-orthodox community in Israel has experienced great changes in its internal social functioning. More specifically, these developments were linked to the education of ultra-orthodox women. Through an accurate review of the existing literature and a series of in-depth interviews with Israeli scholars, rabbis, educators and women of the ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem, it was found that the introduction of new vocational and academic training tracks in women's education, is gradually changing the internal social structure of the ultra-orthodox family and community. The main consequence is expressed in a renegotiation of gender roles within the ultra-orthodox community and in a subversion of the traditional patriarchal framework. As a result of their participation in the labor market and in higher education institutions, women are more and more exposed to the Israeli secular culture, introducing in the traditional and segregated ultra-orthodox community customs typically modern, narrowing the gap between the ultra-orthodox community and the mainstream Israeli society.