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Religion: Ritual

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The Orthodox Congregation B'nai David Sisterhood of Detroit, Michigan, circa 1950

Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century

Jewish women began to assimilate into American society and culture as soon as they stepped off the boat. Some started even earlier, with reports and dreams of the goldene medine, the golden land of liberty and opportunity. Very few resisted adapting to the language and mores of the United States; those who did often returned to Europe. Well over ninety percent stayed, even those who cursed Columbus’s voyage and subsequent European settlement in North America.

Baraita de-Niddah

The term niddah is used in Jewish tradition in relation to menstruation. It implies “a menstruating woman,” “menstruation,” “menstrual blood,” “bleeding period,” “menstrual impurity,” “laws related to menstruation,” etc. The root of the term is ndd or ndh, which means wandering or exclusion, related most certainly to the exclusion of the menstruant from ordinary social activities.

Sarah Bas Tovim

Sarah bas Tovim (Sore bas toyvim), daughter of Mordecai (or daughter of Isaac or Jacob, as sometimes listed on the title pages of various editions of her works), of Satanov in Podolia, in present-day Ukraine, great-granddaughter of Rabbi Mordecai of Brisk (on this, all editions agree), became the emblematic tkhine [q.v.] author, and one of her works, Shloyshe sheorim, perhaps the most beloved of all tkhines.

Annual Bat Mitzvah in Jamaica

Bat Mitzvah: American Jewish Women

The bat mitzvah ritual was introduced into American Judaism as both an ethical and a pragmatic response to gender divisions in traditional Judaism.

Ben Ish Hai

R. Joseph Hayyim ben Elijah al-Hakam was a well-known Torah scholar and preacher who wrote many halakhic, Kabbalistic and homiletical books, but never held any public position.

Hinde Bergner

Though not a published writer in her time, 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 (Yiddish) Small-town Jewish community in Eastern Europe.shtetl is one of few extant Yiddish memoirs to describe the traditional Jewish family on the edge of modernity told from the perspective of a woman. Her intimate portrayal of matchmaking and marriage customs, the education of girls, Jewish occupations, information about period clothing and home furnishing, the spiritual life of Jewish women, generational tensions, and cross-cultural contacts results in a valuable document of Jewish social, family, and women’s history.

Leah Bergstein

Leah Bergstein was the first of the choreographers in Palestine who at the beginning of the 1930s created festival dances at A voluntary collective community, mainly agricultural, in which there is no private wealth and which is responsible for all the needs of its members and their families.kibbutzim, attempting to depict life in pre-state Israel in general and on agricultural settlements in particular. The unique creation of festival pageants contributed greatly to the development of a genre of rural Israeli festival and holiday celebrations and the creation of the first The Land of IsraelErez Israel dances.

Esther M. Broner

Esther M. Broner

Novelist, playwright, ritualist, and feminist writer, Esther M. Broner was born on July 8, 1927, in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Paul Masserman, a journalist and Jewish historian, and Beatrice (Weckstein) Masserman, once an actor in Yiddish theater in Poland.

Cantor Betty Robbins

Cantors: American Jewish Women

Though debate continues regarding the female cantorial profession, women’s voices increasingly come forth from pulpits in America, leading congregations in all the year-round calendar and life-cycle observances of the Jewish faith.

Feminist Seder, 1991

Phyllis Chesler

Phyllis Chesler, a self-described “radical feminist” and “liberation psychologist,” is a prolific writer, seasoned activist and organizer, and committed Jew and Zionist. Also a psychotherapist and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, Chesler is the author of twelve books.

Yardena Cohen

Yardena Cohen

Yardena Cohen, daughter of Miriam Rafalkes and Pinhas Cohen (1887–1956), was born on July 1, 1910 in Wadi Nisnas (the Arab name of a district near the Haifa port). Yardena was the oldest of three children; the others were musicologist and writer Ruth Keviti Jordan (c. 1921–c. 1997) and Nir. Her father, who was born in Zikhron Ya’akov, graduated first from the Ritual bathMikveh Israel agricultural school and then from an agricultural college in Berlin. In 1908 he founded the first Hebrew school in Haifa. Her mother, who was born near Vilna c. 1880 and was a descendant of the Vilna Head of the Torah academies of Sura and Pumbedita in 6th to 11th c. Babylonia.Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, 1720–1797), studied science with Chaim Weizmann in Geneva and then joined her parents, who were founders of Rehovot. She died in Haifa c. 1960.

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 (Anna, Deborah, Eve, Sarah), 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.

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein with Her Family, circa 1930s

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein

Before she was thirteen years old, author, composer, and musicologist Judith Kaplan Eisenstein was already a significant figure in Jewish history. The eldest of four daughters born to Lena (Rubin) and Rabbi Mordecai Menachem Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Judith Kaplan was the first young woman to celebrate a Lit. "daughter of the commandment." A girl who has reached legal-religious maturity and is now obligated to fulfill the commandmentsBat Mitzvah publicly in an American congregation on March 18, 1922.

Rabbi Moses Feinstein

Rabbi Moses Feinstein (1895–1986), one of the great Jewish legalists of the twentieth century, wrote numerous legal decisions responding to and affecting women’s lives. These decisions (Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsa, pl.; Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsum, sing.) reflect a wide range of The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic possibility and expertise.

Female Purity (Niddah)

In order to understand its development and its centrality in the rabbinic context, menstrual impurity must be seen in the context of the biblical purity system.

Female Purity (Niddah) Annotated Bibliography

Annotated bibliography of books about female purity (niddah).

Festivals and Holy Days

This essay describes in general terms central ordinances and customary practices regarding women’s observance of the festivals and holy days of the Jewish calendar as recorded in the Shulhan Arukh and other The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic sources.

Evelyn Garfiel

A successful psychologist who also devoted her life to religious education and leadership, Evelyn Garfiel offered generations of women a model for balancing academic pursuits and religious commitment.

Abraham Geiger

Like many of his contemporary German-Jewish theologians, Abraham Geiger (1810–1874), the leading theorist and intellectual founder of the Jewish Reform movement, was nurtured in a traditional religious home and schooled in the classic rabbinic texts as a young child.

Gender Identity In Halakhic Discourse

Jewish law is based on a fundamental assumption of gender duality.

German Immigrant Period in the United States

The period 1820–1880 has generally been considered the era of German Jewish immigration to the United States. Issues of gender and family shaped this migration from the Germanic regions, and from other parts of Central and Eastern Europe from 1820 to 1880.

Girls Scouts Chapter of Congregation B'nai David, Detroit, Michigan, circa 1945

Adele Ginzberg

Known as “Mama G.” by generations of admirers, Adele Ginzberg was an influential figure in the Conservative Movement as wife of the famed Louis Ginzberg, professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and was an active member of National Women’s League. Ginzberg was a role model and inspiration to rabbinical students and women leaders and an early supporter of equal rights for women in synagogue rituals.

Rose Goldstein

An early advocate of increased rights and responsibilities for women in Jewish life, Rose Goldstein was a prominent leader in the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America (now known as Women’s League for Conservative Judaism).

Iggeret Ha-Kodesh

The Iggeret ha-Kodesh (The Holy Epistle), a Kabbalistic work written in the second half of the twelfth century, has been mistakenly attributed to the Ramban (Moses ben Nahman or Nahmanides, 1194–1270 - see Update below). The question of the composition’s author has prompted various answers: Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) at first believed that the author was Rabbi Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248–1325), a kabbalist who lived a generation after the Ramban. He later recanted this view and attributed the work to the kabbalist Rabbi Joseph of Shushan (thirteenth century), who was especially known for his erotic works.

Gracia Nasi Family Tree

Italy, Early Modern

Jews have lived on the Italian peninsula uninterruptedly since antiquity. During the middle ages, the center of the Jewish population of Italy shifted from the south to the north. There, during the early-modern period, having been granted charters, local Jews, joined by refugees from Europe, including waves from French, German, and Iberian lands, provided valuable services as moneylenders and merchants. Although this period saw anti-Jewish agitation by churchmen and the establishment of ghettos, new governmental bodies to supervise the Jews, and local inquisitions, the fact that Italy was not unified provided the Jews with opportunities to leave one city-state to bring their services to another that offered greater promise for more tranquility, an incentive for their hosts to ensure their continued presence.

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