“Gender and Jewish History” (The Modern Jewish Experience) edited by Marion Kaplan an Deborah Dash Moore— The Importance of Gender in Jewish History

Kaplan, Marion A. and Deborah Dash Moore, (editors). “Gender and Jewish History” (The Modern Jewish Experience), Indiana University Press, 2010.

The Importance of Gender in Jewish History

Amos Lassen

Winner of this year’s Jewish Book Award in non-fiction, “Gender and Jewish History” looks at the importance of gender in Jewish history through a collection of essays. Feminist scholarship has had a profound influence on the study of the history of the Jewish people and religion, especially since the 1970’s. Gender influences observance and political behavior as well as educational accomplishments and structure of Jewish communities, acculturation, assimilation and choice of occupations. We get a look at the creativity and spirituality of Jewish women, violence against women, reactions of women during the persecutions of the Holocaust, and how feminism affects religion and culture. Contributions are by top Jewish female scholars and previously hidden aspects of Jewish culture, society, politics and the religion itself are explored.

The book is dedicated to Paula Hyman whose research and writing brought attention to the role of women in Jewish history and gives credence to several aspects of her work. The essays also provide a fresh look at the issue of gender and Judaism.

In order to write essays on the topic, the writers had to go back and find documents that were overlooked and to look at events from different perspectives and we, in turn, get a more complete picture of the Jewish family and the social and political roles of Jewish women and the changing directions of religious practices. Important people could have been lost to history forever if this book had not been written. With these essays, we are given a new understanding of what makes up modern Jewish history.

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