Judith Plaskow (born 1947 in Brooklyn) is Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. Her scholarly interests focus on contemporary religious thought with a specialization in feminist theology. Plaskow has lectured widely on feminist theology in the United States and Europe. She co-founded The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and co-edited it for its first ten years. She is past President of the American Academy of Religion.
She received a B.A. from Clark University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University.
She came out as a lesbian in the 1980s.
In 1981 she helped found the Jewish feminist group B'not Esh (Daughters of Fire).
Plaskow has written two books, Sex, Sin and Grace: Women's Experience and the Theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich (1980) and Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (1991), as well as a collection of essays entitled The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics (2005). Her book Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (1991) is the first book of Jewish feminist theology ever written.
She has co-edited three books: Women and Religion (1973), Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion (1979), and Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (1989). She has also published numerous articles in edited volumes and journals. She also wrote chapter 14 of Transforming the Faiths of our Fathers: Women who Changed American Religion (2004), edited by Ann Braude.
In her influential book Standing Again at Sinai, the first book of Jewish feminist theology, Plaskow wrote that the Torah, and Jews' conception of their own history, have been written by and in the language of a male patriarchy in a manner that sanctions the marginalization of women, and must be reclaimed by redefining its content to include material on women's experiences.
Jewish feminists, in other words, must reclaim Torah as our own. We must render visible the presence, experience, and deeds of women erased in traditional sources. We must tell the stories of women's encounters with God and capture the texture of their religious experience. We must expand the notion of Torah to encompass not just the five books of Moses and traditional Jewish learning, but women's words, teachings, and actions hitherto unseen. To expand Torah, we must reconstruct Jewish history to include the history of women, and in doing so alter the shape of Jewish memory.
Plaskow wrote that the Rabbis of the Talmud employed a Midrashic method in which "they reconstructed Jewish memory to see themselves in continuity with it." She cited Midrash in which the Rabbis of the Talmud interpreted the Patriarchs as observing all the laws given at Sinai. Faced with apparently contrary Biblical passages, such as the one (Genesis 18:7-8) in which Abraham greets his angelic visitors by killing a calf and serving it with milk, the Rabbis reinterpreted the passage to bring it in line with the laws of Kashrut by saying that Abraham first served the milk and only later the meat.
In addition to supplementing Torah with new material reflecting women's perspectives, Plaskow calls for new Midrash reconstructing our understanding of Torah in light of and in continuity with contemporary needs and perspectives.