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Jewish Women in Medieval Europe
This volume, an amazing act of historical recovery and reconstruction, offers a comprehensive examination of Jewish women in Europe during the High Middle Ages (1000-1300). Avraham Grossman covers multiple aspects of women's lives in medieval Jewish society, including the image of woman, the structure of the family unit, age at marriage, position in family and society, her place in economic and religious life, her education, her role in family ceremonies, violence against women, and the position of the divorcee and the widow in society.
Grossman shows that the High Middle Ages saw a distinct improvement in the status of Jewish women in Europe relative to their status during the Talmudic period and in Muslim countries. If, during the twelfth century, rabbis applauded women as "pious and pure" because of their major role in the martyrdom of the Crusades of 1096, then by the end of the thirteenth century, rabbis complained that women were becoming bold and rebellious. Two main factors fostered this change: first, the transformation of Jewish society from agrarian to "bourgeois," with women performing an increasingly important function in the family economy; and second, the openness toward women in Christian Europe, where women were not subjected to strict limitations based upon conceptions of modesty, as was the case in Muslim countries. The heart of Grossman's book concerns the improvement of Jewish women's lot, and the efforts of secular and religious authorities to impede their new-found status.
Bringing together a variety of sources including halakhic literature, biblical and talmudic exegesis, ethical literature and philosophy, love songs, folklore and popular literature, gravestones, and drawings, Grossman's book reconstructs the hitherto unrecorded lives of Jewish women during the Middle Ages.
Media, Gender, and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism
Recently, polygamy has become a "primetime" phenomenon. Television shows like Big Love and Sister Wives demonstrate the "progressive" side of polygamy while horror stories from victims of abusive marriages offer less upbeat experiences among the adherents of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church). In general, the American public views fundamentalist Mormons, and polygamy in particular, with salacious interest or disgust.
Bennion, herself a product of Mormon polygamy, seeks to dispel the myths and misinformation that surround this topic. This study, based on 17 years of ethnographic research among the Allred Group (Apostolic United Brethren) and an analysis of recent blog journal entries written by a range of polygamous women, examines the variability and complexity of contemporary Mormon fundamentalist life in the Intermountain West.
Although Bennion highlights problems associated with polygamy, including evidence that some forms are at high risk for father-child incest, she challenges the media-driven depiction of plural marriage as uniformly abusive and harmful to women. She shows how polygamist families can provide both economic security and social sustenance for some women, and how the authority of the husband can be undermined by the stresses of providing for multiple wives and children. Going beyond the media's obsession with the sexual aspects of polygamist marriage, Bennion offers a rich description of familial, social, and legal contexts. Throughout, she makes the case for legalizing polygamy in order to allow greater visibility and regulation of the practice.
Published in 1998 as Havalim, The Pure Element of Time is a rich and evocative autobiographical novel about a writer's development. With his keen eye and opulent writing style, Haim Be'er turns the story of his childhood and maturity into a complex and gripping work of art.
Constructed as a triptych, The Pure Element of Time begins with the author's boyhood. Raised in an orthodox family in an old Jerusalem neighborhood in the early 1950s, Be'er was profoundly influenced by his overly pious grandmother, who was, nonetheless, a natural storyteller whose richly evocative parables and tales inspired his lifelong love for language. The middle section depicts his parents' marriage, a tragic misalliance between a smart, independent Jerusalem-born woman and a withdrawn and defeated refugee from the Russian pogroms. The emergence of the writer's individual literary voice--informed by, yet ultimately transcending, the influences of tradition and history--forms the emotional and psychological core of Be'er's work.
The Origins of Chabad Hasidism
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (1745–1812), in imperial Russia, was the founder and first rebbe of Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism that flourishes to the present day. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement he founded in the region now known as Belarus played, and continues to play, an important part in the modernization processes and postwar revitalization of Orthodox Jewry. Drawing on historical source materials that include Shneur Zalman’s own works and correspondence, as well as documents concerning his imprisonment and interrogation by the Russian authorities, Etkes focuses on Zalman’s performance as a Hasidic leader, his unique personal qualities and achievements, and the role he played in the conflict between Hasidim and its opponents. In addition, Etkes draws a vivid picture of the entire generation that came under Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s influence. This comprehensive biography will appeal to scholars and students of the history of Hasidism, East European Jewry, and Jewish spirituality.
This illuminating study explores the role of religious institutions in the makeup of Jewish identity in the former Soviet Union, against the backdrop of the government's antireligion policies from the 1940s to the 1960s. Foregrounding instances of Jewish public and private activities centered on synagogues and prayer groups--paradoxically the only Jewish institutions sanctioned by the government--Altshuler dispels the commonly held perception of Soviet Jewry as "The Jews of Silence" and reveals the earliest stirrings of Jewish national sentiment that anticipated the liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Paul R. Katz has composed a fascinating account of the fate of Chinese religions during the modern era by assessing mutations of communal religious life, innovative forms of religious publishing, and the religious practices of modern Chinese elites traditionally considered models of secular modernity. The author offers a rare look at the monumental changes that have affected modern Chinese religions, from the first all-out assault on them during the 1898 reforms to the eve of the Communist takeover of the mainland. Tracing the ways in which the vast religious resources (texts, expertise, symbolic capital, material wealth, etc.) that circulated throughout Chinese society during the late imperial period were reconfigured during this later era, Katz sheds new light on modern Chinese religious life and the understudied nexus between religion and modern political culture.
Religion in China and Its Modern Fate will appeal to a broad audience of religionists and historians of modern China.
A Challenge to Collectivism
A provocative history of Israeli society in the 1950s that demonstrates how a voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos In this sharply argued volume, Orit Rozin reveals the flaws in the conventional account of Israeli society in the 1950s, which portrayed the Israeli public as committed to a collectivist ideology. In fact, major sectors of Israeli society espoused individualism and rejected the state-imposed collectivist ideology. Rozin draws on archival, legal, and media sources to analyze the attitudes of black-market profiteers, politicians and judges, middle-class homemakers, and immigrants living in transit camps and rural settlements. Part of a refreshing trend in recent Israeli historiography to study the voices, emotions, and ideas of ordinary people, Rozin’s book provides an important corrective to much extant scholarly literature on Israel’s early years.
Contradicting the views commonly held by westerners, many Muslim countries in fact engage in a wide spectrum of reform, with the status of women as a central dimension. This anthology counters the myth that Islam and feminism are always or necessarily in opposition. A multidisciplinary group of scholars examine ideology, practice, and reform efforts in the areas of marriage, divorce, abortion, violence against women, inheritance, and female circumcision across the Islamic world, illuminating how religious and cultural prescriptions interact with legal norms, affecting change in sometimes surprising ways.
This collection of essays examines an important and under-studied topic in early modern Jewish social history"--the family life of Sephardi Jewish families in the Ottoman Empire as well as in communities in Western Europe. At the height of its power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlling much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Thousands of Jewish families that had been expelled from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century created communities in these far-flung locations. Later emigrants from Iberia, who converted to Christianity at the time of the expulsion or before, created communities in Western European cities such as Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Livorno. Sephardi communities were very different from those of Ashkenazi Jews in the same period. The authors of these essays use the lens of domestic life to illuminate the diversity of the post-Inquisition Sephardi Jewish experience, enabling readers to enter into little-known and little-studied Jewish historical episodes.
Contributors include: Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld, Hannah Davidson, Cristina Galasso, David Graizbord, Ruth Lamdan, and Julia Lieberman