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Edna: Apocrypha

In the Book of Tobit, Edna is Raguel’s wife, Sarah’s mother, and the mother-in-law of Tobias, Tobit’s son. Edna has no biblical namesake; unlike the other women named in Tobit, her name does not evoke images from the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps the author of Tobit means to recall Eden’s idyllic existence, or, more likely, to convey by the name something about the type of woman, wife, and mother Edna is.

Divorce: The Halakhic Perspective

Many scholars claim that Jewish marriage is a matter of contract between two willing parties and as a result they, not the state, can decide to get divorced, in the same way that they decided to marry. However, more critically inclined scholars, and especially feminist scholars, take issue with those who complacently remark on the “progressive, and contractual” ease with which Jewish divorce takes place.

Demography: Soviet Union, the Russian Federation and other Successor States

The statistics on Jewish marriage, divorce, fertility, emigration, and aging within the Soviet Union reveal new pockets of history and can shed light on the effects of historical events on Jewish lives.

Daughters of Zelophehad: Bible

The story of the five daughters of Zelophehad provides legitimation of a limited right of Israelite women to inherit land. The story celebrates women’s boldness and at the same time offers comfort for men who have the misfortune (from the Bible’s androcentric point of view) to have no sons.

Daughters of Zelophehad: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash rains many praises on the daughters of Zelophehad, describing them all as equally wise and virtuous, as well as exegetes. The midrash also says that they are mentioned by the Patriarchs and are so righteous that they are blessed with children despite their old age.


One of the major Jewish sources dealing with contraception is Tosefta Niddah. As with the issue of abortion, the more public the debate about contraception became over time, the more some rabbinic authorities attempted to usurp women’s control over their bodies.

Jewish Migrations to the United States in the Late Twentieth Century

The three primary groups of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the last decades of the twentieth century were from the former Soviet Union, Israel, and Iran. In each group, women played key roles in helping their communities adapt to life in the United States.

Concubine of a Levite: Midrash and Aggadah

The story of the concubine at Gibeah, who is murdered when her husband sends her out to a crowd of Benjamites, is one of the most shocking narratives in the Bible. The rabbis do not blame the unnamed woman for her fate and the ensuing crisis, instead placing the blame at the feet of the Levite and the leaders of Israel.

Concubine of a Levite: Bible

The concubine of a Levite is offered to a group of Benjaminite men while traveling with her husband and is subsequently raped until she is near death. In retaliation, the Israelites launch a series of attacks on the Benjaminites. The narrative of the concubine is horrifying and shows the chaos of life before monarchial rule was established.

Colonial Period in the United States

Jewish women in colonial America led varied lives, with some occupying traditional roles as mothers and wives and others remaining single. Some ran their own businesses and others worked as servants for Jews with more money. Both in and out of the synagogue, women played a crucial role in early American Jewish communities.

Club Movement in the United States

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Jewish women shifted from benevolent work to social and personal reform, often through aiding immigrants and young, vulnerable women. They facilitated educational opportunities to learn about Jewish history and ethics, which in turn helped inform their aid work. These efforts created a space specifically for women in American Jewish society.

Caribbean Islands and the Guianas

Women were among the earliest settles in the Dutch and English Caribbean. Early Caribbean Jewish women, despite living in patriarchal societies, still managed to engage in public pursuits. As Caribbean Jewish communities became increasingly racially blended over time, women of color became some of the most definitive architects of distinctly Creole Caribbean Jewry.

Bilhah: Bible

Bilhah is given to Rachel as a maid and would later serve as a surrogate mother for Rachel when she could not conceive. Though the story records none of Bilhah’s thoughts or words, she gives birth to two of Jacob’s sons for Rachel, Dan and Naphtali, and is remembered as one of the ancestresses of the Israelites.

Bilhah: Midrash and Aggadah

Bilhah was the maidservant of Rachel and mother of Dan and Naphtali. The rabbis fill in details about her life, her relationship with Jacob, and the confusing incident between Bilhah and Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son.

Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai

Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai are the two major schools of exposition of the Oral Law that existed from the first century BCE to the second century CE. Contrary to the common interpretations, Bet Shammai is more lenient than Bet Hillel in its rulings surrounding matrimonial law. Generally, Bet Hillel is more concerned with the familial complexity or unexpected events, and that less specific view leads to oppression of women’s autonomy in legal matters.

Hinde Bergner

Hinde Bergner holds a special place in Yiddish literature by virtue of the fact that her memoir of family life in a late nineteenth-century Galician shtetl is one of few extant Yiddish memoirs to describe the traditional Jewish family on the edge of modernity from the perspective of a woman. Her intimate portrayal of her life results in a valuable source for Jewish social, family, and women’s history.


A descendant of Herod the Great, Berenice was queen of Chalcis and Cicilia and opposed the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE. She eventually became the lover of Titus, the Roman general (and later emperor) who destroyed Jerusalem.

Bene Israel

The Bene Israel is one of three Jewish communities in India. Bene Israel women were the producers and preservers of Bene Israel culture in India, and many were very influential leaders in their communities, academia, and religious life.

Ben Ish Hai

The Ben Ish-Hai, R. Joseph Hayyim b. Elijah, was a well-known Baghdadi Torah scholar. He wrote many responsa and halakhic books, which included his rulings on women’s halakhot.

Bathsheba: Midrash and Aggadah

As in the Bible, Bathsheba plays a secondary role in the midrashim about her husband, King David, and her son, King Solomon. The rabbis view her as a righteous, guiltless woman, both during David’s life and as an advisor to Solomon.

Bathsheba: Bible

Bathsheba is the married woman whom King David takes in adultery and who, though initially passive, becomes the pivotal figure in his downfall. The king has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, slain in battle and then takes her as a wife. While her first child, conceived in adultery, dies, the second, Solomon, becomes heir to the throne as a consequence of Bathsheba’s maneuverings.

Baraita de-Niddah

A rabbinic text about the ritual laws relating to menstruation, Baraita de-Niddah has a mysterious origin and an unknown impact on the interpretation of Jewish law about menstruation.

Baghdadi Jewish Women in India

Baghdadi Jews arrived in India in the late eighteenth century and ultimately formed important diaspora communities in Bombay and Calcutta. Many notable Baghdadi Indian women were involved in philanthropy, Jewish and Zionist organizations, education, and film acting.


Babatha, daughter of Shim’on, a Jewish landowner who lived in Roman Arabia, owned a document archive found in a cave in the Judaean desert. Babatha’s archive is an extremely important resource for many issues, especially on the question of Jewish women’s legal position in Greco-Roman Palestine during the second century CE.

Ba'alei Ha-Nefesh

Ba’alei Ha-Nefesh is a halakhic work written by Rabbi Abraham ben David (Rabad) of Posquieres, a Provençal rabbi, in 1180. It focuses on the laws of behavior during niddah (menstruation), and lays out Rabad’s theology of self-control, sexuality, and the role of Jewish women.


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