Jewish Gender Roles

In both shtetls and Jewish communities on the lower east side of New York, gender roles were distinctly divided. In the shtetl, men acted as the religious authorities while women managed domestic affairs. Both boys and men were expected to pursue their religious studies rigorously. Many women worked outside of the home and often provided their families with additional sources of income by working in the marketplace. Girls were trained to fulfill the same household and financial responsibilities as their mothers.

Upon immigrating to the United States, male gender roles changed as wealth rather than religious knowledge became a determinant of success and prestige. The roles of women as the breadwinners in their families were altered as more married women begun to be confined to working within their homes. More children and adolescents of both genders now were expected to work outside of the home and contribute to their families’ incomes. Cultural restraints became less rigid for the younger generation as they gained more opportunities to socialize and become exposed to American secular culture. This contributed to an overall generational gap that was occurring between the younger generations of Jewish immigrants and their parents.


What were male gender roles like in the shtetl?                                    In the United States?

What was female gender roles like in the shtetl?                                   In the United States?




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