Content type
"A Jewish Wedding" by Jozef Israëls, 1903

What makes a marriage?

Leah Berkenwald

A couple weeks ago, while visiting my parents over the holidays, I overheard something very disturbing. As I made my way from the dining room (occupied by the younger generation) back to the kitchen for a second helping of Indian takeout, I overheard my mother say to the table, "You know, I'm not opposed to arranged marriage."

What is the Jewish "Happily Ever After?"

Leora Jackson

HBI eZine editor Michelle Cove’s latest book, Seeking Happily Ever After, was profiled at Feministing. I’ve seen news about the book in a couple of places, and there is a documentary film (here’s the trailer of the same name that Cove co-made).

Topics: Marriage

TLC's Sister Wives: A Closer Look

Leah Berkenwald

I returned home from my cousin’s wedding Sunday night, happy and exhausted with barely enough energy to flop onto the couch and turn on the TV. That is how I found myself watching the two new episodes of TLC’s Sister Wives, a reality TV show about a modern polygamous family.

Topics: Television, Marriage

"Being welcoming" is an end unto itself

Leah Berkenwald

I recently read a piece called "New Study Finds That It’s Not a Lack of Welcome That’s Keeping the Intermarrieds Away" in the eJewish Philanthropy daily e-letter. It explained how a study done by Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist who studies American Jews, determined that it was a lack of "competency" rather than welcome that was keeping intermarried families and their children from engaging with the Jewish community.

Is intermarriage more likely to end in divorce?

From the Rib

The Washington Post Outlook section featured an interesting article this weekend on a surprising topic---whether or not marrying someone of the same religion is likely to make your marriage more successful. This is particularly relevant to Jews, who now find themselves with an intermarriage rate of almost 50%.

Topics: Marriage

Is Leo DiCaprio "bad for the Jews?"

From the Rib

Why have an American actor and Israeli model become hot topics for the Jewish press? Lehava, a Jewish organization created to prevent assimilation, recently sent a letter to Bar Refaeli, a prominent Israeli supermodel, not to marry DiCaprio because it would be bad for Judaism. Some excerpts from the letter:

Topics: Marriage

Esther: Nice Jewish Girl, Married to a Goy?

From the Rib

This past weekend was Purim, and amidst the celebrating and partying one thing stood out in my mind that most people tend to ignore: the fact that the feminine hero of the story, Esther, is interma

Topics: Marriage, Purim

Queen Esther’s Agunah Story

Elana Sztokman

You can learn an incredible amount about different people from language.

Topics: Marriage, Purim

What Queen Esther can teach us about intermarriage

Jenna Zark

“She was trying as hard as she could not to be beautiful. But she had a brightness on her, made stronger by the fact that she wanted to hide it; thinking if it was seen, somehow, it would make him choose her, and of course it did.” 

Topics: Marriage, Purim

It takes a village -- or a court order

Leah Berkenwald

It's not always easy to raise children Jewish in America. Our holidays are no match for the big C, bacon is America's favorite food, and to top it off, your ex might baptize your children when you're not looking. That's what happened to Rebecca Reyes, a Jewish woman going through a divorce.

Topics: Marriage

Passage of NY widows' pension bill advocated by Hannah Bachman Einstein

April 7, 1915

On April 7, 1915, New York's Governor Charles S. Whitman signed the Widowed Mothers Pension Act into law.

Yemen and the Yishuv

Yemenite women proved to be stable and resourceful, both in Yemen where tradition reigned, and also after immigration to Erez Israel and New York, facing changes and challenges in turbulent times. They adapted to changing economic, social, and communal conditions, acculturated in language skills and organizational life, and were instrumental in bringing up their daughters and sons to successfully integrate into the new worlds.

Tamar: Midrash and Aggadah

The Tamar narrative in the Bible casts the characters in a human, and not very complimentary, light. The later Rabbis sharply criticize Judah and his sons, but they describe Tamar positively, despite the fact that she is a convert. Her actions during her relationship with Judah demonstrate her purity, and her behavior shows the proper way in which all future women should perform.

Medieval Spain

Written histories of Jews in medieval Spain rarely include women, so one must seek alternate sources. Marital status was the frequent topic of rabbinic responsa. Some Jewish women made their own income as merchants and moneylenders. Inheritance laws were problematic for Jewish women – disputes were settled in both Jewish and non-Jewish courts.


The rabbinic discourse of sex has been simultaneously both empowering and sharply disabling for women. In obliging all women to be wives and mothers, it has severely constrained the possibilities for women’s lives, and to a great extent, women’s roles have been denigrated as well.


Married thrice, Salome spent her life plotting against a myriad of people. Her scheming is viewed negatively, but it is revealed later in her narrative that she was constructed into this monster by the historian who recorded Salome’s story.

Rebekah: Midrash and Aggadah

Rebekah, one of the four Matriarchs, is characterized by the Rabbis as a prophet and a righteous woman. The midrash transforms Rebekah from an individual character with a personal story into a symbol of the realization of God’s promise to Abraham.

Rebekah: Bible

Rebekah is the second matriarch in Genesis and shares two problems with Sarah, the first matriarch: barrenness, and being passed off as her husband’s sister. But her story is more extensive; she is a dynamic character in a long narrative describing how she becomes Isaac’s wife. Her agency continues when she bears twins and secures the birthright for her favored son.

Rachel: Midrash and Aggadah

Rachel is depicted in the Torah as Jacob’s beautiful and beloved wife. The midrash portrays Rachel as a prophetess, and her statements and the names she gave her sons contain allusions to the future. Rachel’s merit continued to aid Israel even many years after her demise.

Rachel: Bible

The younger daughter of Laban and wife of Jacob, Rachel is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, who become two of the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen 35:24; 46:15–18). Rachel, who died young, becomes an image of tragic womanhood. After the biblical period, “Mother Rachel” continued to be celebrated as a powerful intercessor for the people of Israel.

Naomi: Bible

Naomi is featured prominently in the Hebrew Bible and is portrayed as a woman who both challenges and conforms to patriarchal expectations. Analyses of Naomi from a modern feminist lens include varied interpretations of her actions, but she nevertheless dominates the stories in the Book of Ruth and effectively controls the situations of which she is a part.

Morocco: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The Moroccan Jewish community was the largest Jewish community in North Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The status of Moroccan Jewish women was affected by a variety of factors, including a patriarchal order and social changes brought about by economic development, urbanization, and contact with European countries.


The mikveh is a ritual bath prescribed by ancient Jewish law for the rite of purification. It had particular significance for Jewish women, who were required to immerse themselves in the mikveh following their menstrual periods or after childbirth in order to become ritually pure and permitted to resume sexual activity. The practice has been jettisoned by many Jews but continues to be observed today, not only in Orthodox communities but also by feminists, queer Jews, and others who have reinterpreted the ritual.


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