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Concubine of a Levite: Midrash and Aggadah

The story of the concubine at Gibeah is one of the most shocking narratives in the Bible. The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:426]Tosefta[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] attests that these verses are read in public, along with their Aramaic Targum, that is, they are interpreted during the public reading of the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Tosefta [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:354]Megillah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] 3:33). The [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:416]Talmud[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] explains that although a matter that publicly tarnishes the honor of the tribe of Benjamin should not properly be aired, the tribe’s reputation is not a consideration in this case (BT Megillah 25b). The Tosefta and the Talmud apparently find educational value in this narrative, and feel that something important is to be learned even from such a troubling occurrence.

Concubine of a Levite: Bible

The story of the unnamed woman in Judges 19–20 is one of the most disturbing texts in the Hebrew Bible. The woman, who is from Bethlehem but lives with a Levite in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Jerusalem, is referred to in Hebrew as the pilegesh of the Levite. The precise nature of the relationship between a man and his pilegesh is not always clear from the biblical texts, however, and scholars have sometimes disagreed about the term’s meaning. It is usually translated into English as “concubine” and understood to refer to a wife or sexual partner of secondary status. Although certain men in the Hebrew Bible have both wives and concubines, no wives or additional concubines are referred to in Judges 19. The Levite is referred to as the “husband” of the woman (19:3; 20:4) and the “son-in-law” of the woman’s father (19:5), who in turn is referred to as the Levite’s “father-in-law” (19:4, 7, 9). The uncertain nature of the differences between a wife and a concubine reveals the complexities involved in understanding notions of kinship and marriage presupposed by biblical narratives.

Colonial Period in the United States

More so than some of their counterparts in England’s Caribbean colonies, Jewish women in colonial North America occupied traditional positions and played traditional roles within the Jewish community as well as in the larger society. They could not serve in positions of leadership in either the Jewish or the general community, and they are not known to have had their own social organizations. Their primary occupation was that of homemaker, although, in an extension, several kept lodgings in which poorer Jewish individuals lived at the Jewish community’s expense.

Club Movement in the United States

Jewish clubwomen emerged in America between 1880 and 1920 as part of a comprehensive social transition. Jews—women as well as men—evolved from a series of scattered ethnic enclaves primarily of German origin into a more cohesive and politically active portion of a decidedly American middle class.

Children's Literature in the United States

It is hard to imagine the world of children’s books without Jewish women writers.

Children's Literature in Hebrew

All of these aspects are clearly reflected in the developmental patterns of Hebrew children’s literature at the end of the eighteenth century; likewise, the ways in which this literature became established serve to illustrate the factors that led to the institutionalization of children’s literature in Europe in general.

Peggy Charren

Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children’s Television (ACT), took on the burgeoning television industry of the 1970s and won.

Caribbean Islands and the Guianas

To sum up, the life of Jewish women in the Caribbean and the Guianas differed from that elsewhere in the Jewish world, since Jewish life had to adapt itself to the jungle, to isolated plantations and to small islands, with only limited contact with the outside world.

Britain: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

From 1656, when Jews were allowed to resettle in Great Britain, forming a small community in London until the present, the Anglo-Jewish community has benefited from the relative tolerance toward minorities that the British have displayed, as well as from general economic and political developments. To be sure, Parliament did not fully emancipate Jews until 1858 and social discrimination persisted into the twentieth century. Great Britain did, however, offer haven to successive waves of immigrants, and Jews have prospered on its shores, becoming British and participating in the larger culture of the urban middle classes. The status of Jewish women was affected both by larger social mores and by the nature of the Anglo-Jewish community.

Bilhah: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis count Bilhah among the six Matriarchs (Cant. Rabbah 6:4:2). She was the handmaiden of Rachel, to whom she had been given by Rachel’s father Laban when she married Jacob.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Family." (Viewed on November 12, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/family>.

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