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The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan is a classic American rags-to-riches story of a Jewish immigrant from Russia to the United States set in the early twentieth century. Although the eponymous protagonist of the book succeeds in business, his personal life is less successful, in part because he never quite seems to adapt to the ways relationships function in the westernized secular world. Even though he shaves his beard, and adopts western manners and lifestyle, David still has problems relating to women.
Orthodox Jewish life is what anthropologists term homosocial, meaning that the genders are generally segregated from one another in social, religious, and civic life. Within Orthodox Judaism, women are clearly subordinated to men, cannot become religious leaders, and lack political power. They are confined to the domestic sphere. Marriages are arranged, adultery is strongly prohibited, and divorce can only be initiated by men.
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