Religion: Rabbis

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Akiva, Rabbi

Rabbi Akiva was not merely a transmitter, formulator and redactor of halakhah; he also innovated and changed a great deal in our conception of Jewish law.

Students of the Mechona with Meyer Berlson in Buenos Aires, 1954

Argentina: Jewish Education

The Jews who arrived in Argentina in the first waves of immigration at the end of the nineteenth century were as concerned about their children’s education as about earning a livelihood and organizing their community.

The Orthodox Congregation B'nai David Sisterhood of Detroit, Michigan, circa 1950

Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century

Jewish women began to assimilate into American society and culture as soon as they stepped off the boat. Some started even earlier, with reports and dreams of the goldene medine, the golden land of liberty and opportunity. Very few resisted adapting to the language and mores of the United States; those who did often returned to Europe. Well over ninety percent stayed, even those who cursed Columbus’s voyage and subsequent European settlement in North America.

Ba'alei Ha-Nefesh

A halakhic work composed in 1180 that deals with the laws of behavior during menstruation (niddah), Ba’alei ha-Nefesh (Masters of the Soul) was written by Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquières (the Rabad, c. 1125–1198), who was also known as ba’al ha-hassagot (critic par excellence).

Baraita de-Niddah

The term niddah is used in Jewish tradition in relation to menstruation. It implies “a menstruating woman,” “menstruation,” “menstrual blood,” “bleeding period,” “menstrual impurity,” “laws related to menstruation,” etc. The root of the term is ndd or ndh, which means wandering or exclusion, related most certainly to the exclusion of the menstruant from ordinary social activities.

Asnat Barazani

Asnat Barazani was a highly educated and respected Torah scholar in late 16th and early 17th century Kurdistan. After her father’s death, he passed leadership of his Yeshiva in Mosul to Asnat’s husband, but she essentially ran it, taking rabbinic students under her supervision.

Conservative Judaism in the United States

Women have played a pivotal role in Conservative Judaism throughout the twentieth century and have been instrumental on both the grass-roots and national levels in propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education, gender equality and religious leadership. The Conservative Movement’s attention over the decades to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the ]agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual and the ordination of women has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism and its maturation as a distinct denomination.

Contraception

One of the major sources dealing with contraception is (Aramaic) A work containing a collection of tanna'itic beraitot, organized into a series of tractates each of which parallels a tractate of the Mishnah.Tosefta Menstruation; the menstruant woman; ritual status of the menstruant woman.Niddah 2:6: “[T]hree women use a Contraceptive absorbentmokh (contraceptive absorbent): a minor, a pregnant woman and a nursing woman. The minor lest she become pregnant and die ... the pregnant woman lest she make her fetus into a compressed fetus [by conceiving a second time causing the second, later conceived, fetus to crush the first, earlier conceived], a nursing woman lest she kill her child [inadvertently by early weaning as a result of the new pregnancy and not being circumspect in providing alternative healthy food] ….” In the continuation of this Lit. (Aramaic) "outside." Halakhah and aggadah from the tanna'ic period that was not included in Judah ha-Nasi's Mishnah.baraita R. Meir recommends coitus interruptus, an opinion rejected by the sages. The minor was defined as a girl from eleven years and a day to twelve years and a day. Although we now define sexual relations with a minor as child abuse and generally non-procreative, early adolescent pregnancies have the highest mortality rate for both mother and child. In antiquity when cesarean birth, hemorrhage control and antibiotics for infection were unavailable, the mortality rate was extremely high. Superfetation (conceiving again while pregnant) is quite rare but the dangers of a multiple pregnancy both for the mother and the infants are significant. The poskim differ as to whether this baraita should be interpreted as “[S]uch women must use contraception,” in which case other women may also use contraception, or “[S]uch women may use contraception,” thus limiting contraception to those women. The kos shel ikkarin (cup of roots) or sama de-akarta (a drug of sterility or a drug which uproots) referred to in BT Yevamot 65b, etc. is generally considered an oral contraceptive (Riddle).

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.

Amy Eilberg

Amy Eilberg

On May 12, 1985 Amy Eilberg became the first woman ordained by the Conservative movement.

Rabbi Moses Feinstein

Rabbi Moses Feinstein (1895–1986), one of the great Jewish legalists of the twentieth century, wrote numerous legal decisions responding to and affecting women’s lives. These decisions (Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsa, pl.; Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsum, sing.) reflect a wide range of The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic possibility and expertise.

Ray Frank

Ray Frank

While her career was short-lived, Ray Frank remains significant as the first Jewish woman to preach from a pulpit in the United States, and the first to be seen as a Jewish religious leader.

Abraham Geiger

Like many of his contemporary German-Jewish theologians, Abraham Geiger (1810–1874), the leading theorist and intellectual founder of the Jewish Reform movement, was nurtured in a traditional religious home and schooled in the classic rabbinic texts as a young child.

Laura Geller

Laura Geller

Among the few women rabbis ordained during the 1970s Laura Geller has been most prominent in shaping the impact of female religious leadership upon Judaism.

Elyse Goldstein

Elyse Goldstein

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and educated at Brandeis University (B.A. summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1978) and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (M.H.L. followed by ordination in 1983). As a student, she served at Beth Or, a synagogue for the deaf in the New York City area, and she remains committed to Jewish education for the deaf. Her first rabbinic positions were as assistant rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto and rabbi of Temple Beth David in Canton, Massachusetts. She is one of many Canadian Jewish professionals born and/or trained in the United States. In the somewhat more conservative Canadian Jewish community, where synagogue egalitarianism has developed much more slowly than in the United States, she has been a path breaker.

Halakhic Decisions on Family Matters in Medieval Jewish Society

The Regulation supplementing the laws of the Torah enacted by a halakhic authority.takkanah (regulation enacted by The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic scholars supplementing the Talmudic The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhah) 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 Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud.Talmud refers to as a legislative tool.

Hasidic Hebrew Fiction: Portrayal of Women

Hundreds of compilations of Hasidic literature were published in Eastern Europe from the start of the nineteenth century until the outbreak of World War II. This literature derived from oral traditions that were passed down among the Hasidim from the movement’s beginnings. Many stories were printed without processing or calculated editing in an attempt to preserve the tradition as intact as possible.

Hasidism

Hasidism—a spiritual revival movement associated with the founding figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (Besht, c. 1700–1760), which began in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century and became a mass movement of Eastern European Jewry by the early decades of the nineteenth—has been celebrated as nothing less than a “feminist” revolution in early modern Judaism. The first to depict it in this light was Samuel Abba Horodezky (1871–1957) who, in his four-volume Hebrew history of Hasidism, first published in 1923, claimed that “the Jewish woman was given complete equality in the emotional, mystical, religious life of Beshtian Hasidism” (vol. 4, 68). Horodezky’s account underlies virtually every subsequent treatment of the subject, whether in the popular, belletristic and semi-scholarly literature on the history of Hasidism, or in such works, mostly apologetic and uncritical, as have set out to discover and catalogue the achievements of prominent women throughout pre-modern Judaism. Notably, until relatively recently, Hasidic scholarship has totally ignored the subject, implicitly dismissing it as either marginal or insufficiently documented to permit serious consideration.

Gracia Nasi Family Tree

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.

Bertha Pappenheim

Jewish Feminism in Post-Holocaust Germany

Jewish feminism in Germany today is an expression of a wide-reaching renewal of Judaism that has been going on in many European countries since the early 1990s. That women have their own movement within this development became evident at the first conference of Bet Debora in Berlin.

Trude Weiss-Rosmarin

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.

Jewish Women and Jewish Music in America

American Jewish music has expanded vastly in variety, range, and quality of activities. Jews brought to America their secular-folk and sacred-liturgical musical heritage. There has been a renascence of age-old traditions that have become means of self-expression for Jewish women.

Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. From 1942–1944 she performed rabbinical functions in Theresienstadt. She would probably have been completely forgotten, had she not left traces both in Theresienstadt and in her native city, Berlin.

Mordecai Kaplan, 1915

Mordecai Kaplan

Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983), the founding father of Reconstructionist Judaism, was a lifelong supporter of the rights of women. The roots of his concern for women may go back to his father: Rabbi Israel Kaplan, though strictly traditional, was concerned that his daughter Sophie (a few years older than Mordecai) have a Jewish education.

Killer Wife in Jewish Law and Lore

In Jewish law presumptions play an important role. In the context of our topic, the type of presumption which is relevant is unique in legal systems: the presumption is that if things happen in a certain manner they will continue to happen in the same manner.

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