Posted on | March 1, 2006 | By Shoshanna Silcove | 63 Comments
Sociologically speaking in general terms, the life cycles of women who are born into traditional Orthodox society vary greatly from those women who became newly observant as adults. Women who are frum from birth were hardly touched by the feminist trends and changing mores of our modern world, as they are socialized in a clearly defined traditional female role reminiscent of an earlier era.
The newly observant women can be coming from almost any socioeconomic background and, she could have had any of a myriad number of life experiences. Most likely, if she is of university age or older by the time she entered the fold, she had had a semblance of independence that most frum from birth women could only imagine. Not that this is necessarily good or bad, as I am not making any value judgments—only observations.
I have known newly observant women who were quite accomplished in careers, in the arts or sciences, and who were well travelled. Many of them moved in educated and sophisticated circles and were exposed to the world of culture that most frum from birth women have no connection with. There are also many ordinary women who become newly observant, humbler types who cannot boast of anything more than a mediocre existence before becoming frum. Yet, whatever end of the social or educational scale a newly observant women was on before, for the most part it is safe to say that she was heavily influenced, in one way or another, by the modern post-feminist world she came from.
This would mean that most of the newly observant women had gone to co-ed schools, and had some dating experiences. Some were actually married , or had live-in defacto situations before they became religious. Most had lived on their own, outside their parents’ homes for several years, and some even independently owned their own property. All this means that it is not an a outrageous generalization to assert that women who become newly observant as adults have had a great deal more independence and freedom and a wider variety of worldly experiences than their frum from birth counterparts.
The average life cycle of frum birth women is the following—she grows up knowing that her main vocation in life will be as a wife and mother. Although many frum girls study hard, and have ambitions to become educated, they do not ‘shoot for the stars’ and dream about becoming the first female President. She knows that her G-d given role is more important so she sets her sights on more achievable aspirations that will fit into her frum lifestyle.
Furthermore, the frum from birth women does not usually have as much independence from her parents as her newly observant counterparts have had, as in most cases she lives in her father’s house before marriage. She may have a brief stint in a seminary, or if she does not get married before the age of 23, she may briefly live in an apartment with relatives or friends while she works, all the while bidding her time until she embarks on her true avocation as a Torah observant wife and mother.
To the newly observant woman, the life cycle of the frum from birth woman can seem a bit staid but secure, a straighter path than hers often was, with less trauma and struggle along the way. The frum from birth woman, having been more protected from the plagues of modern society, can seem somewhat naïve but wholesome to the woman who came into Judaism from the tumultous modern world. On the other hand, the frum from birth women may look at her newly observant sisters somewhat askance, and may see her as fascinating but, slightly off balanced. Mutual repsect, tolerance, and ahavas yisroel is called for and we can enrich each other’s lives.