Let My People Know

"Have women been served well or poorly by religion?"

When Rabbi Steinsaltz was asked if women have fared well or badly in the world’s religions down through the ages–and why–he replied:

The question of how women have fared in the world’s religions can be understood in two ways.

First, have women fared well or badly in the religious establishment?

Although there may have been some exceptions in the remote past – and we may occasionally find such cases in the present day – the heads and leaders of all religions, looking at the broadest, world-wide picture, have been men.

Even in places or cases in which women had some formal religious position, it was basically secondary and auxiliary.

Second, have women been served well or poorly by religion?

For this aspect of the question, the answer is quite the opposite.

Even in faiths where only men carried out the religious ceremonies, there was still very strong participation among the women.

This point becomes very clear when looking at religious participation and connection in the West; it holds true as well in the East, though somewhat less so there. The feeling of being connected, the observance of the laws, and the inner devotion, were always – and continue to be – stronger among women than men.

Throughout history, women’s basic religious stance, which involves their acceptance of religion, the ability to be fulfilled by it, and – in many cases – their enhanced sensitivity, have made them the devotees and loyal members of every religion.

When it comes to the influence and power of faith, it seems that women, in the end, benefit more from religious involvement than do men.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “On Faith: A Conversation about Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn”