The Mothers, Wives, and Daughters
of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn
JULY 2018 / THE CHOSEN PEOPLE - 5
BY CHARLOTTE MACHADO
Living and studying in Brooklyn at the Feinberg Center—the Chosen
People Ministries graduate studies program sponsored by the Talbot School of
Theology—afforded me many opportunities to observe, and sometimes
participate in, the lives of religious Jewish women. After all, who else shops for
clothes, groceries, and gets their nails done in the middle of the day? I chuckle at
the bits and pieces of conversation I overheard: “I’m good, Baruch HaShem, you
Rivki?,” or “My husband says I shouldn’t spend so much money on things we only
buy for the guests,” or “Shayna that skirt looks too boxy, I think you should go for an
When a baby girl is brought into the world, she is introduced to the community
by a public naming ceremony, while a boy has the rite of circumcision on the eighth
day. From that time on, the little girl is taught how to be an exceptional homemaker
and mother. Young girls are also taught to read and understand Hebrew, Jewish
history, and classic Jewish religious literature. The traditional Jewish woman wears
modest, feminine clothes, and married women will often wear wigs or scarves over
their hair. These vary based on style, observance, and socio-economic level.
Marriages are usually arranged by a Shadchan (matchmaker) and by mutual
agreement of the parents. By the time a young woman is eighteen or so, she is
married, and usually children come shortly thereafter. It is not uncommon for a
woman to have school-age children by the time she is thirty, and sometimes by
her early forties, she is already a grandmother! With this emphasis on family and
childrearing, it can be difficult for women in these communities who marry late,
who have difficulty conceiving, who experience divorce, become widowed, or who
feel like they don’t fit the mold and expectations of their communities. Sometimes
these mothers have children with disabilities, and like many other American
families, they struggle in the same ways.
What are the implications for Jewish evangelism? Jewish women are well versed
in the Hebrew Scriptures, as it is considered their special domain. Considerable
emphasis is also placed on the Talmud, but extra-biblical texts are studied more
by men. This is an unintended blessing, as religious women can draw closer to the
Scriptures than their husbands, fathers, and sons!
Also, women are excused from “time dependent commandments,” which
means that they do not have to run off to the synagogue at an exact time to pray
in a prescribed way. Women are more likely to have a personal relationship with
God as they sing and encourage their hearts through the Psalms and as they go
about their day caring for children and keeping a kosher home. These religious
Jewish women hold the future in their hands. According to the most recent surveys
of the Jewish community, especially by the Pew organization, the high birth rate
among traditional Jewish families means that in one or two generations Orthodox
Jewish people will make up one third of the Jewish population!1 These women
are raising the next generation of the Jewish people. How appropriate that our
Feinberg Center is located in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn.
Please pray for these precious women. Also, it seems that there is a new
movement within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community as some women are
beginning to work outside the home and are also asking for a greater role in
synagogue life. This is causing some tension within the ultra-religious Jewish
community. It is our hope that these trends might be used by God to inspire
religious Jewish women to go even further by starting to consider the possibility
that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
he or she is expelled from the community, most likely
divorced and separated from their children and workplace.
Even so, merely communicating the gospel to
the Haredim is one of the most significant obstacles.
Our highly successful Internet evangelism campaigns
cannot reach a Haredi community that shuns the use
of the Internet. Street evangelism teams and door-todoor
missionaries are run out of the neighborhood.
Evangelistic materials in the mail are thrown in the
garbage before entering the home. Service projects by
outsiders are shunned since the community takes care
of their own.
Your Mission to the Jewish People has been
sharing the gospel with ultra-Orthodox Jewish people
since our beginning in 1894. Our founder, Leopold
Cohn grew up in a Haredi home in Hungary. We
continue to have a deep burden for the Haredim to
know Yeshua as their Messiah.
Would you pray for the salvation of the
Haredim, and for the work of Chosen People
Ministries as we intensify our efforts to understand
and interact with them? Pray for our missionaries in
Brooklyn and Israel who are around Haredi Jewish
people every day. Our staff needs courage, creativity,
and divine appointments. Pray for the perseverance
and protection of Haredi secret believers who are
following Yeshua in silence while hoping for ways to
save their non-believing families. Above all, pray that
the name of Jesus may be magnified in the hearts of
the Haredim, and that the Lord’s remnant of Haredi
Jews will expand with a mighty outpouring of the
2 Yiddish is a language that was spoken by Jewish people in pre-Holocaust
Europe and is a combination of German and Hebrew dialects. It is still
spoken today mainly in the U.S., Israel, and Russia.