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The JPS Guide to Jewish Women

600 B.C.E.to 1900 C.E.

Authored by Sondra Henry, Emily Taitz Ph.D., and Cheryl Tallan

Publication Year: 2003

This is an indispensable resource about the role of Jewish women from post-biblical times to the twentieth century. Unique in its approach, it is structured so that each chapter, which is divided into three parts, covers a specific period and geographical area. The first section of the book contains an overview, explaining how historical events affected Jews in general and Jewish women in particular. This is followed by a section of biographical entries of women of the period whose lives are set in their economic, familial, and cultural backgrounds. The third and last part of each chapter, "The World of Jewish Women," is organized by topic and covers women's activities and interests and how Jewish laws concerning women developed and changed. This comprehensive work is an easy-to-use sourcebook, synopsizing rich and diverse resources. By examining history and analyzing the dynamics of Jewish law and custom, it illuminates the circumstances of Jewish women's lives and traces the changes that have occurred throughout the centuries. It casts a new and clear light on Jewish women as individuals and sets women firmly within the context of their own cultural and historical periods. The book contains illustrations, boxed text, extensive endnotes, and indices that list each woman by name. It is ideal for women's groups and study groups as well as students and scholars.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

Many people have helped us in the course of researching and writing this book. They include librarians, scholars, friends, and family. Although we cannot hope to name them all, we wish at least to thank the following people: the librarians at the Jewish Theological Seminary Library, especially Yisrael Dubitsky and Joshua Alan Gorfinkle; Barry Walfish, librarian at the Robarts Library, University ...

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pp. xi-xiii

Recently, there has been a veritable explosion of interest in examining Jewish women's lives. In the last thirty or forty years, scholars and historians have searched out and analyzed literary, documentary, and archeological evidence that challenges the old stereotypes. However, such monographs, biographies, and journal articles are scattered and may be difficult to find....

Alphabetical Guide to Jewish Women in the Text

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pp. xv-xxviii

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Chapter 1. Buried Treasures: Archeological Evidence from the Ancient Near East

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pp. 1-20

The history of Judaism does not really begin until the late sixth century B.C.E. when many of the people of Judea were exiled from their own land and sent to Babylonia (present-day Iraq). Before the exile, they were a loose confederation of tribes with a central religious focus. After the return of some Jews from Babylonia, approximately seventy years later, a new ...

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Chapter 2: A Written Legacy: Literary Evidence from the Ancient Near East to 600 C.E.

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pp. 21-46

Archeological discoveries indicate that women were active participants in ancient Jewish society. But literary evidence has had a much greater impact than archeology on how we view the position and status of Jewish women. Because women's activities have scarcely appeared in ancient Jewish literature, people assume that women played only a minor role. When texts ...

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Chapter 3. Jewish Women Under Islam: The Near East, North Africa, and Spain to 1492

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pp. 47-71

Egypt, Syria, and Babylonia had large and well-established Jewish communities by the seventh century C.E. Smaller settlements could also be found throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and west along the northern Mediterranean coast. The Jews in these communities lived in diverse situations with varied lifestyles, but the position of women tended ...

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Chapter 4. Further from Home: Jewish Women in Christian Europe to 1492

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pp. 73-102

From the population centers of the Middle East and North Africa, Jews slowly migrated to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Italy, Spain, and Provence were the first to receive Jews. From there they spread into northern Europe. What began as a trickle grew into a steady flow, and by the ninth and early tenth centuries Jews were moving into Europe in larg ...

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Chapter 5. A Separate Community: Jewish Women in Italy until the 1800s

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pp. 103-128

Jews originally came to Rome as slaves, the result of the first Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. Most were soon ransomed or liberated, and a small number of them remained in that city, eventually settling on the banks of the Tiber River.1 Thus Rome became the oldest Jewish community in Europe. About one hundred years later, after the Roman general Titus ...

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Chapter 6. European Jewry Moves East: The Early Modern Period (1492-1750)

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pp. 129-163

Murder, expulsion, or forced conversions were prominent components of Jewish life in western Europe throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This was the time when England, France, and parts of Germany "witnessed the near-destruction of Jewish religion, learning, and life."l From 1470 to 1570, most of the remaining Jewish communities in the West, ...

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Chapter 7. A Different Voice: Jewish Women in the Lands of Islam (1750-1900)

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pp. 165-197

Once a strong and united territory, the lands of the Islamic Empire had begun to separate and weaken even before the year 1000 (see chapter 3). The separation of Spain and then North Africa from the Abbasid Empire was only the beginning of this trend. In the West, the Spanish Caliphate divided into small principalities, ruled by warring potentates. In the East, ...

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Chapter 8. Opening Doors: Jewish Women During and After Haskalah (1750-1900)

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pp. 199-235

While the battle between the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim was threatening to destroy Jewish unity in eastern Europe, some Jews were migrating westward. Many had fled the religious wars of the seventeenth century and the anti-Jewish pogroms and persecutions in Poland, Lithuania, and the less stable German principalities. They began returning to Holland, ...

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Chapter 9. Jewish Women in the New World: From the First Settlement until 1900

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pp. 237-272

In 1492, a sailor from Genoa named Christopher Columbus set sail for "The Indies"1 and discovered a new world. Shortly after, Jews began arriving. Most were Sephardim who had originated in Spain and Portugal, where they had lived as Christians but secretly practiced Judaism. Others came via Amsterdam, a city that had become a haven for Spanish-Jewish ...

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pp. 273-274

In this book, we have attempted to highlight a sampling of representative women, considering each one in the context of her time and, as a background, discussing the generalities of life for each period. Our sources have been varied and numerous....

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pp. 275-277

The twentieth century represents the first time Jewish women as a group openly challenged their tradition and pushed for full participation in Jewish religious and communal life. The more liberal denominations of Judaism, especially those in North America,...


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pp. 279-324


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pp. 325-346


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pp. 347-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609747
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827607521

Publication Year: 2003