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Hagar: Bible

Hagar is Sarah’s Egyptian slave woman, whom Sarah gives to Abraham as secondary wife and who would bear a child for him. After Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarah treats her harshly. Eventually Hagar flees from her mistress into the wilderness, where God’s messenger speaks to her. Hagar has long represented the plight of the foreigner, the slave, and the sexually abused woman.


Women played many different roles in the operations of the Haganah. Though their stories are frequently excluded from the story of the Jewish paramilitary organization in British Mandate Palestine, women served as caretakers and nurses, as well as fighters and commanders.

Eve: Midrash and Aggadah

Eve’s character is posited to be that of the original and quintessential woman. The Midrash interprets her traits as representative of the negative aspects of femininity. Eve’s punishment for her sin is also tied to the traditional ideas of the fundamentals of womanhood – childbirth, pregnancy, and male spousal domination.

Elisheba: Bible

Elisheba was the wife of the high priest Aaron and the mother of their four sons, but she does not appear in any stories. Mention of her in the genealogy signifies the importance of women in the destiny of their children.

Deborah 1: Midrash and Aggadah

Rebekah’s nurse Deborah died when Jacob was on his way to the Land of Canaan, close to Bethel, where she was buried under a tree. The rabbis describe her as having a close relationship to Jacob.

Wise Woman of Tekoa: Bible

The midrash includes the wise woman from Tekoa among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came out of Israel. The Rabbi’ note that because the residents of Tekoa frequently used olive oil, they were wise. The woman’s wisdom was therefore linked to the blessing of olive oil and, in the opinion of the Rabbis, reflected the wisdom of all the area’s inhabitants.

Solomon’s Judgment: Bible

In this story, King Solomon is asked to consider the case of two women who gave birth to sons but, due to the death of one of their children, are fighting over the remaining child. While the story is generally cited as an example of Solomon’s wisdom, this narrative also shows the possessiveness of maternal love.

Two Prostitutes as Mothers: Midrash and Aggadah

The two prostitutes appear in the narrative about Solomon’s judgement concerning the parentage of a baby boy. The Rabbis debate the identity of the women; some argue that they truly were prostitutes and were therefore not present at the time of the judgment, while others assert that they were yevamot (widows whose husbands had died childless).

Elizabeth Stern

Elizabeth Stern was an American-Jewish writer, essayist, and journalist. She achieved success within a number of realms and balanced a number of competing roles: fiction writer, journalist, social worker, wife, mother, and an American woman leading a secular life who examined the importance of cultural heritage.

Russian Immigrants in Israel

Approximately 350,000 Jewish women moved to Israel from the Former Soviet Union after 1989. Among the key issues they faced were occupational downgrading, sexuality and family life, sexual harassment, marital distress, and single-parent families.

Norma Rosen

Born in Brooklyn in 1925 to secular and assimilated parents, Norma Rosen was an American-Jewish novelist, essayist, educator, editor, and professor. Rosen’s exploration of Jewish history and religion in her writings contributed to questions surrounding Jewish theology and Jewish feminism in the second half of the twentieth century.

Rahab: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis sing paeans of praise of Rahab for her beauty and wisdom. In many midrashim, Rahab comes to symbolize the positive influence Israel exerts on the surrounding Gentile nations, as well as successful conversion. Her ability to mend her ways was exemplary for ensuing generations, who used Rahab’s story to request divine mercy and pardon for their actions.

Mother of Samson: Bible

Though her name is never mentioned, Samson’s mother plays a vital role in shaping her son, one of the greatest among the Judges. When notified by a divine messenger that her son must be a Nazirite, she herself keeps the Nazirite vows, ensuring that he could grow up to become a hero to Israel.

Mother of Micah: Midrash and Aggadah

One midrash posits that Delilah was Micah’s mother, based on two stories in the Bible that mention Delilah and Micah immediately after one another. However, Rashi argued that the timelines of Delilah and Micah’s lives meant that they could not be related.

Mother of Micah: Bible

The story of Micah’s mother in Judges 17 is short, but it offers a key insight into ancient Israelite women’s important role as a leader in household worship.

The Jewish Family in Early Twentieth-Century United States

As poor Jewish immigrant families poured into the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, concerned social workers, rabbis, sisterhood presidents and journalists sounded an alarm about the state of the Jewish family. Women often bore the blame for what was seen as the weakening of the Jewish home, and communal organizations devoted much attention to strengthening the Jewish family.

Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)

The Jews of medieval Ashkenaz are known for their prolific rabbis and for the Ashkenazic customs that became characteristic of many European Jewish communities. During the High Middle Ages, the women in these communities had many important roles women within the family and in the communal, economic, and religious life.

Matriarchs: A Liturgical and Theological Category

Among egalitarian religious congregations throughout the world, the most popular addition to the traditional liturgy is the mention of the Matriarchs in birkat avot (the blessing of the ancestors), the opening blessing of the Amidah.

Portrayals of Women in Israeli Media

Representations of women in a variety of Israeli media, such as advertising, news, and entertainment, reflect and perpetuate the marginality of women in Israeli society. While representations have diversified over the years, showing Israeli women in more varied professional roles and enjoying sexual freedom and independence, overall the gender inequity remains and women are still marginalized in Israeli media.

Martyred mother with seven sons (4MACC): Apocrypha

4 Maccabees is a philosophical retelling of 2 Maccabees, intended to inspire Jews by the martyred mother’s actions to accept the supremacy of devout reason.

Martyred Mother with seven sons (2MACC): Apocrypha

Following the passage of King Antiochus IV’s laws prohibiting the practice of Judaism, an unnamed mother leads a family through martyrdom.

Levant: Women in the Jewish Communities after the Ottoman Conquest of 1517

Following their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, many Jews settled in Palestine, Egypt, and Syria – regions which fell under Ottoman Control in 1517. Girls in the Levant were married at young ages, polygamy was common, and obtaining a get was very difficult. Nevertheless, many Jewish women worked outside the home and kept their earnings.

Kurdish Women

Jews lived in Kurdistan for 2,800 years, until a mass migration to Israel in the 1950s. This Jewish community’s ancient roots and relative seclusion in the Kurdistan region fostered unique religious, cultural, and linguistic characteristics. Despite assimilation and the loss of traditional practices, the community remained tight-knit.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Although he credited women for their emotions and intuition and valued them for their essential position in the family, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook generally regarded women as inferior to men. He believed women should not be educated but rather should be limited to the home and to serving as their husband and family’s housekeeper.

Kinnim (Tractate)

Tractate Kinnim (“nest” or “birds in a nest”), the last tractate in Order Kodashim (Holy Things), deals with the smallest type of sacrifice, a pair of turtledoves or young pigeons—one nest, hence the title.


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