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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.

Ethiopian Jewish Women

Jewish women in Ethiopian villages were traditionally inactive in public and were in charge of the domestic sphere. After immigration to Israel, their lives changed dramatically, with some young women acquiring higher education and becoming high-profile career women.

Esau, Wives of: Midrash and Aggadah

Esau’s three wives are given more context and background by the rabbis than in the Torah. Esau’s first two wives, Adah and Judith, are described as adulterous and idolatrous, while his third wife, Mahalat, is interpreted as either Esau’s repentance or his fall further into evil.

Equality, Religion and Gender in Israel

Although the principles of equality for women under the Declaration of Independence and the Women’s Equal Rights Law were not endowed with constitutional force, and the 1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty does not expressly include the principle of equality, these laws have been interpreted by the courts as securing the principle of gender equality as a basic principle of the legal system.


The documents found on the Egyptian island of Elephantine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which date from the fifth century BCE, extensively feature women. The women enjoyed extensive financial and property rights and their narratives show a society in which women had significant rights, rare for the time.

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.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Forty-four percent of the approximately two million Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1886 and 1914 were women. Although these women were more politically active and autonomous than other immigrant women, dire economic circumstances constricted their lives. The hopes these immigrant women harbored for themselves were often transferred to the younger generation.

Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp

Impulsive, adventurous, and outspoken, Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp ran away from home when she was seventeen years old. Two years later, she joined destinies with western lawman, gambler, and entrepreneur Wyatt Earp. For forty-seven years, they roamed the West, mingling with well-known westerners on both sides of the law.

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.


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