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Ketubbah

Reclaiming the Ketubah as a symbol of equality and women's independence

The evolution of the Ketubah in the Jewish tradition has taken an interesting turn in recent times.

Morocco: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The female gender roles and status of Moroccan Jewish women during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were influenced by a patriarchal order, by Jewish religious writings and their interpretations by local rabbis, and by the surrounding Muslim society, which was often hostile to the Jewish communities.

Ritual: A Feminist Approach

Because religious praxis involving material objects plays so major a role in Jewish religion, one of the most significant expressions of the creation of feminist Judaism and its influence on the Jewish people is women’s wide-ranging involvement in the full range of ceremonies that exist both within and beyond halakhah.

Karaite Women

Family law and personal status of women are important aspects of both the daily life and the halakhah of Karaite communities. Karaite legal sources often deal with rules pertaining to betrothal, marriage, divorce, ritual purity and incest. Crucial to the identity and the continuity of Karaite community, these issues had considerable impact on the relationships between Karaites and mainstream Rabbanite Jews.

Italy, Early Modern

Jews have lived on the Italian peninsula uninterruptedly since antiquity. During the middle ages, the center of the Jewish population of Italy shifted from the south to the north. There, during the early-modern period, having been granted charters, local Jews, joined by refugees from Europe, including waves from French, German, and Iberian lands, provided valuable services as moneylenders and merchants. Although this period saw anti-Jewish agitation by churchmen and the establishment of ghettos, new governmental bodies to supervise the Jews, and local inquisitions, the fact that Italy was not unified provided the Jews with opportunities to leave one city-state to bring their services to another that offered greater promise for more tranquility, an incentive for their hosts to ensure their continued presence.

Halakhic Decisions on Family Matters in Medieval Jewish Society

The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:414]takkanah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (regulation enacted by [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhic[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] scholars supplementing the Talmudic [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) was, in practical terms, a legislative tool of major importance in organizing Jewish communities in medieval times. The Jewish communities of the time felt they were subordinate to Talmudic law, which they saw as sacred and binding. But when urgent needs arose which put the Jewish community under pressure, the sages’ preferred manner of coping with them was the takkanah, which the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:416]Talmud[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] refers to as a legislative tool.

Genizah

The world of Jewish women in the Islamic middle ages is revealed to us through a treasure trove of primary source material found in Cairo at the end of the nineteenth century. A genizah is a storage room for discarded books and written materials. Jews do not destroy anything with God’s name written on it; such pieces of parchment and paper are usually buried. In medieval Cairo, this custom was extended to anything written in Hebrew, but instead of being buried, such items were stored in a genizah in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fostat (Old Cairo), where most of the Jews lived; the arid conditions preserved them.

Entrepreneurs

The dictionary definition of entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Following this definition to its logical conclusion, every pre-modern woman who managed a household was an entrepreneur since the household, at least until the seventeenth—in some places until the eighteenth—century, was an economic enterprise. For the purposes of this article, however, we have limited this broad definition of entrepreneurship, concentrating on women who specialized in commerce, selling what they themselves produced or what others produced and, in later centuries, women who were actively involved in the money economy.

Divorce: The Halakhic Perspective

Many scholars in the area of Jewish marriage and divorce point proudly to the fact that Jewish marriage is a private ordering between individuals. Those scholars claim that Jewish marriage is a matter of contract between two willing parties, and therefore, unlike the custom in most liberal Western democratic countries, the parties, not the state, determine their personal status. The parties by agreement can decide to get divorced, in the same way that they decided to marry. No reason need be alleged for the divorce. No fault is relevant. No time need elapse between separation and divorce. In theory, parties can marry one day, divorce the next, and then remarry without delay or period of separation.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ketubbah." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/ketubbah>.

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