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Iraqi Jewish Women

Jews lived in Iraq for thousands of years. Life for Iraqi Jewish women was determined by tradition, custom, and religious law, with a patriarchal system that emphasized child-rearing and household duties. These traditions shifted with the secularizing British Mandate in Iraq, and again with the assimilation the Iraqi Jewish community experienced upon immigration to Israel.

International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR)

International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) was created to solve the problem of women whose husbands refuse to grant them Jewish divorces, through a combination of education and activism. Although some of the member organizations remain active in North America, ICAR itself has become a primarily Israel-focused coalition.

Infertile Wife in Rabbinic Judaism

Only men are legally obligated to procreate, but there is disagreement over whether that obligation compels a man to divorce his wife after ten childless years. The initial infertility of the matriarchs reinforces the efficacy of prayer by demonstrating that the individual matriarchs’ suffering and supplications are what provoked a divine response.

Imma Shalom

In the 1st century CE, Imma Shalom was the sister of a powerful Rabbi and wife of an eminent sage. She defended her husband when he disobeyed the wishes of his colleagues. She also challenged the tradition of giving shares of a father’s estate only to his sons and a judge awarded her part of her father’s estate, although the judge reversed himself after being bribed by her brother.

Beba Idelson

Beba Idelson was an Israeli politician and dedicated Zionist activist. She served as a member of the Knesset for sixteen years and was instrumental in shaping the character of the State of Israel, especially as it pertained to women’s rights.

Iggeret Ha-Kodesh

The Iggeret ha-Kodesh is a Kabbalistic work with contested authorship, written in the second half of the twelfth century. The work is a kabbalistic interpretation of sexual relations and its sacred spirituality between a married couple.

Libby Holman

Singer and actress Libby Holman was known as much for her scandalous personal life and revolutionary activism as for her lush voice. She grew famous performing in Broadway shows and revues throughout the 1920s. Holman was openly bisexual and was accused of murdering her husband, Zachary Smith Reynolds, in 1932. She was actively involved in protesting racial segregation.

Herodian Women

The Herodian dynasty produced a large number of seemingly impressive women, whose stories are recorded in Josephus’ writings. This article summarizes the lives of Cyprus (I), Pheroras’ Wife, Doris, Mariamme, Glaphyra, Berenice (I), Herodias, Salome (II), Cyprus (II), and Drusilla.

Hasidic Hebrew Fiction: Portrayal of Women

Hundreds of compilations of Hasidic literature, a genre derived from oral traditions, were published in Eastern Europe between the start of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War II. The image of “woman” varies in Hasidic literature according to the character in the story, its narrator, and its setting in time and place; therefore we can only refer to individual women, each on her own, and not to woman in general or women as a gender.

Hasidism

Hasidism is a spiritual revival movement associated with the founding figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (Besht, c. 1700–1760). Although some have depicted the movement as nothing less than a “feminist” revolution in early modern Judaism, in actuality the Hasidic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries conceptualized gender in conventional terms drawn unquestioningly from the classical rabbinic, philosophical, and kabbalistic sources.

Haskalah Attitudes Toward Women

Just as the many well-known thinkers of the Enlightenment debated the proper role of women in society, so did the maskilim, the men of intellect who burst upon Ashkenazi Jewish society in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revolution known as Haskalah. Dominated by men, the movement critiqued Jewish tradition and encouraged modernity among Jews, but simultaneously met Jewish women’s pursuit of modernity with ambivalence.

Haskalah Literature: Portrayal of Women

The image of women in Haskalah literature reflects the relationship between the sexes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ashkenazi Jewish society and European culture. But Haskalah writers wished to shape new patterns of male-female relationships among their reading public; to change, at least partly, the attitude of men towards women; and to ‘improve’ women’s conduct within the home and community.

Hasmonean Women

Though few of their names were documented, the women of the Hasmonean family were important figures in political and familial affairs during the second and first centuries BCE.

Halakhic Decisions on Family Matters in Medieval Jewish Society

Across the medieval Jewish world, rabbis used takkanot (rabbinic decrees) to address urgent needs in family life among their Jewish communities. These takkanot are key historical sources for understanding the changing roles of women in the medieval Jewish world.

Gomer: Bible

The prophet Hosea uses his adulterous wife Gomer as a metaphor for God as the faithful husband to Israel. Gomer and Hosea’s relationship shows how women were ostracized for extramarital sex while such behavior was tolerated if not encouraged in men, paralleling the relationship between Israel and God. It is difficult, however, to separate historical facts about the couple’s domestic problems from the theological message expressed through them.

Gomer, daughter of Diblaim: Midrash and Aggadah

According to the Rabbis, God commanded Hosea to marry Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, to teach him proper conduct for one who was to prophesy to Israel. Despite Gomer’s harlotry, the rabbis interpret her story as proof that, even when God is angry with Israel, God still loves Israel.

Glueckel of Hameln

Born into an affluent family in Hamburg, Glückel of Hameln became the business partner of her beloved first husband. She began writing memoirs in 1691, after her husband’s death. These memoirs are incredibly detailed, combining a meticulous record of her life and descriptions of events that occurred in local Jewish communities. Her memoirs are both a singularly important social and historical document and one of the greatest literary achievements of Ashkenazi prose–in Yiddish or Hebrew–at least until the end of the eighteenth century.

Germany: 1750-1945

The Jewish Reform movement did not liberate women from their subordinate religious status, and the nineteenth-century bourgeois German family ideal with its rigid gender roles soon eclipsed the fluid structure of premodern Jewish families. Jewish women were expected to transmit German bourgeois values while also shaping their children’s Jewish identity.

German Immigrant Period in the United States

Among nineteenth-century German Jewish immigrants to the United States, married women often made their own sources of incomes. However, high rates of poverty in large cities motivated women to create benevolent societies. As women participated more in the public sphere, the traditionally strict dichotomy between male and female roles changed in immigrant communities.

Jewish Women in the Cairo Genizah

The Cairo Genizah (950-1250) contained a vast array of documents pertaining to women’s lives in the medieval Islamic world. Letters, wills, business arrangements, marriage documents, court cases and rabbinic responsa shed light on the lives of the poor and the wealthy, the married and divorced or widowed.

Abraham Geiger

Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the nineteenth century. He was one of the major intellectual leaders and founders of the Reform movement in Germany and a strong supporter of Jews entering European society. As part of his vision of Judaism, he argued for a Judaism oriented around the home and domestic life, but also a Judaism that both elevated and sidelined the women that had long created that domestic life.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was the author of a pathbreaking feminist book, The Feminine Mystique, which sold millions of copies and helped to provoke a feminist movement in the United States. She was an activist and writer who hoped to improve women’s lives by co-founding the National Organization for Women and other women’s political groups. Her many books focused on women’s rights, the women’s movement, and aging.

Rabbi Moses Feinstein

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the great Jewish legalists of the twentieth century, wrote numerous legal decisions responding to and affecting women’s lives. His pronouncements regarding women aimed to respond to women’s issues with respect and careful consideration, while also establishing a system in which the roles of men and women were distinctly imbalanced.

Family During the Holocaust

Although Jewish family life was destroyed and restructured in many ways during the Holocaust, it still often provided strength and a sense of normalcy. In many cases women became the family’s main income earner and were charged with many new tasks and responsibilities. Families were also frequently broken up by deportation, escape abroad, and death.

Community Dance Practices in the Yishuv and Israel: 1900-2000

Women have been at the forefront of preserving community dance practices in Israel. In the 1970s Gurit Kadman worked with ethnomusicologist Dr. Esther Gerson-Kiwi to collect, document, and study ethnic music and dance practices in Israel. Eventually elements of ethnic dances were incorporated into the canon of Israeli folk dance.

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