Bible

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Collection

Helène Aylon

Helene Aylon was an American, New York-based, multimedia visual artist who began by creating process art in the 1970s, focused on anti-nuclear and eco-activist art by the 1980s, and subsequently devoted more than 35 years to the multi-partite installation The G-d Project. This last body of work’s often direct or indirect textuality resonates from and responds to Judaism’s traditionally male-dominated textuality as part of a larger commentary on women in Judaism.

Chagall's Hommage à Apollinaire - woman and man's body merged together

This Chagall Piece Reflects My Nonbinary Gender

Anne Vetter

This Chagall piece invites me to see myself as split and whole in the same moment.

Handwritten page with images and words to protect pregnant women and newborns.

From the Archive: Amulet for the Protection of Pregnant Women and Newborn Children

Deborah Dash Moore
Dory Fox

The Posen Library shares an eighteenth century amulet to protect pregnant women and newborn children.

Jewish Women in the New Testament

The New Testament describes Jewish women’s social roles in the late Second Temple period: in the home, in business ventures (especially textiles), in synagogues and the Temple, serving as patrons of the early Jesus movement, and as suffering from and being healed of various ailments. Despite the variety of examples of women’s agency, many Christian interpreters paint an historically inaccurate picture of a misogynistic culture in order to show Jesus, Paul, and their early movement as progressive on women’s issues. 

Lauren Tuchman

Lauren Tuchman, the first blind woman ordained as a rabbi, is best known for her championing inclusive Torah and disability justice. Though she is ordained in the Conservative movement, most of her work has been in community organizing and other non-congregational settings.

Second Temple Reception of Women in Tanakh

Second Temple discourse on women and gender is grounded in biblical interpretation and everyday life and, as such, has the potential to shed light on tumultuous debates about what different communities deemed problematic, acceptable, ideal, and anomalous with respect to a woman’s role in society. A selection of Second Temple texts envisioning Dinah, Miriam, and Sarah indicates these varied perspectives, as well as how these figures were used to promote the ideologies of the particular communities the texts represented.

Women Warriors

In the Hebrew Bible and ancient Jewish literature, most warriors are men. However, a few women go to war or kill: Deborah, Jael, the unnamed woman of Thebez, and Judith.

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg is a highly regarded Torah scholar and author. Her complex interpretive lens is both contemporary, in drawing from literary sources, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory, and very traditional, in reading the Bible through the lens of classic commentaries and rabbinic midrash.

Daughter Zion (Bat Tzion)

“Daughter Zion” or “Fair Zion” (in Hebrew bat tzion) is the personification of Jerusalem in poetic and prophetic literature. Initially, the city is positively likened to a daughter, protected under God’s special regard, but later, under the Babylonian siege, she is devastated, even ravaged. However, when Jerusalem is rebuilt, the daughter is forsaken no longer, returning to God’s grace in the prophecies of consolation.

Ministering Women and Their Mirrors

Women who ministered at the entrance of the Tabernacle gathered around to donate their copper mirrors (Exodus 38:8), which were then smelted down to make the basin where the priests would wash before entering the sanctuary. The women may have served as guards, warding off evil with their mirrors. Midrash, however, conjectures that the women used these mirrors to seduce their husbands in Egypt, raising up the hosts of Israelites.

Barren Women in the Bible

The Hebrew Bible tells six stories of barren women: three of the four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel); the unnamed wife of Manoah/mother of Samson; Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; and the Shunnamite woman, an acolyte of the prophet Elisha.  Each woman suffers a period of infertility, in some cases exacerbated by the presence of a fertile, though less beloved, rival wife. Eventually, God intervenes and the woman conceives, but the beloved son is then dedicated back to God, either in service or in sacrifice.

Tamar 2

The story of the rape of Tamar, the daughter of King David, by Amnon, her half-brother (2 Samuel 13) is told in the wake of the king’s sins of adultery and murder. Tamar’s is the only woman’s voice in the Bible to be heard in resistance to rape, though she is ultimately silenced by her full brother, Absalom. He murders Amnon in vengeance and stages an insurrection against the king, his father, while she lives the rest of her life forlorn in Absalom’s house.

Judith Collage, 2020 by Judy Goldstein

Facing Holofernes: How to Live Up to a Name Like Judith

Judy Goldstein

In order to live up to a name like Judith, we must face our own Holoferneses head on.

Topics: Feminism, Bible

Louise Glück

Louise Glück, American poet, essayist, and educator, is the recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as numerous other awards for her writing; she also served as poet laureate of the United States from 2003 to 2004. One finds the personal, the mythological, and the Biblical woven intricately throughout Glück’s oeuvre.

Adam and Eve Cast from the Garden of Eden by angel

Beyond Crime and Punishment

Mica Maltzman

America’s prisons, police forces, and courts seem beyond repair. Imagine how the world might look if God hadn't jumped to punish Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

Topics: Voting Rights, Bible
Naamah Book Cover

Interview with Sarah Blake, Author of "Naamah"

Rebecca Long

Exclusively for JWA, author Sarah Blake discusses her novel Naamah.

Topics: Bible, Fiction

Episode 28: The Torah at Her Fingertips

Batya Sperling Milner’s recent bat mitzvah was groundbreaking; it was the first held in an Orthodox synagogue in which the Torah portion was chanted from braille. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Batya talks about the highlights of her bat mitzvah and her mother, Aliza Sperling, discusses her groundbreaking scholarship on blind people reading Torah within the bounds of Jewish law. We talk about the first ever braille trope system—one created especially for Batya. Batya describes her love of Torah, her commitment to Jewish law, and her desire to be recognized for who she is, rather than defined by a disability.

Nina Baran's Tanakh

Interpreting the Torah Through a Feminist Lens

Nina Baran

I got my own Tanakh and started doing some research. I looked up different passages, including some that I’d heard that seemed to go against my beliefs as a feminist and activist.

Episode 22: The Red Tent: Claiming Our Place in the Story

Anita Diamant's 1997 novel The Red Tent began as a word-of-mouth book club favorite, and went on to become a publishing phenomenon and the inspiration for women's organizations around the world. In this first-ever Can We Talk? episode recorded in front of an audience, we bring you a lively conversation with Anita Diamant, host-producer Nahanni Rous, JWA Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum, Rabbi Liza Stern, and Rev. Gloria White-Hammond.

Girls in Trouble: Women's Agency and Power in the Torah

Guest teacher Alicia Jo Rabins introduces two new study guides from her "Girls in Trouble" curriculum. By exploring the stories of the Sotah, and the daughters of Tzelofchad, participants consider women's agency and power in the Torah.

Harvey Weinstein

Seizing Control of the Narrative

Sofia Heller

The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape allegations over the past few months, catalyzed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law
Egyptians Admire Sarai's Beauty

Sarai and the Silence Breakers

Natalie Harder

Once a month, I meet with about ten other Jewish girls as part of the Rosh Chodesh program. We drink tea, bake cookies, do mindful meditations, and kvetch. Most importantly though, we talk about the impact our female identities have on our daily lives and within Judaism. Earlier this month, over a batch of half-baked brownies, we discussed a Torah portion that rattled the foundation of my identity as a Jewish woman.

Topics: Feminism, Bible
Julia Clardy Canoe Trip Photo

Creation on a Canoe Trip

Julia Clardy

This past summer I attended a three-week-long canoe trip in Western Quebec. We set out to canoe white water and live completely in nature with a handful of tents, the clothes we were wearing, heavy containers filled with dehydrated food, and four red canoes. I had no idea what I was in for, and my only expectation was to learn more about the earth, and how I’m connected to it.

Tamar Cohen at her Bat Mitzvah

Near(ly) a Woman

Tamar Cohen

Every year in the Hebrew month of Shevat, Jews around the world read Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. But the “Big Ten” are only part of this portion – Parshat Yitro also contains a visit from Moses’ father-in-law, a feast, and a set of instructions from G-d transferred with questionable integrity by Moses to the Israelites. Before becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 12, I spent months studying this portion and its various commentaries. One line was particularly alarming to me: “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.”

Drawing of Zelophehad's Daughters

Finding the Founding Feminists

Minnah Stein

Every year in July, the story of Pinchas is told. And on July 6, 2013, I was the one telling this story. Yep. Little 13-year-old me, electric green braces and all, was up on the bimah, knees knocking, chanting the story of Pinchas. And I did a great job, if I do say so myself. But as embarrassing as it is to admit now, my understanding of my Torah portion at that time was very superficial. I had spent so much time making sure I knew the words so I didn’t make a fool out of myself when I was chanting, that I didn’t put that much effort into fully understanding what I was saying, and how it affected me.

Topics: Bible, Jewish Law

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