The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Rothberg International School
Division of Undergraduate Studies
48156: Feminist Judaism, Theory and Practice: Contemporary Issues and Ideas
Professor Shulamit Magnus
Office Hours: By appointment
In this course, we will read some of the most important works of Jewish feminist critique of traditional Judaism and proposals for a Judaism which is in female as well as male image. We will look at contemporary issues that engage feminist Jews, women and men, such as rituals and language of prayer, and see how theory gets applied in practice.
This syllabus contains crucial information for which you are responsible. Ask me any questions.
-- Attendance will be noted and will count toward the final grade. Class begins on time.
--Informed participation: I will certainly give my input and direction but this will not be a lecture class. Students are expected to have read and thought about the reading assigned for each class and to participate in group discussion about it during class. It is each student’s responsibility to obtain the readings in time to have done them thoughtfully for the class assigned.
PLEASE NOTE: Because of copyright restrictions there is limit on how many pages the Library has scanned of assigned reading. Sometimes, part but not all a reading has been scanned; sometimes none of it has. Check this well in advance.
Observations: Come to class with 3-5 main points you take from the reading; also ask yourself why these particular points struck you. Observations can be about the author’s method or language, as well as substance. As we proceed, think comparatively. Observations need not be brilliant or perfect- just informed and thoughtful. Use directions for the Leadoff presentation, below.
Please bring the reading to class, whether via laptops or in hard copy. This or specific direction during class are the only permitted use of laptops during class. No cell phone use during class.
--Leadoff presentation: Each student will lead off a class session in an analytical presentation of 7-10 minutes—do not exceed this limit—of several main points YOU from the readings; your informed observation about them: think of this as an enlarged, version of the 3-5 main points from the reading you do for each class (see, above). Hand in a ONE-page outline of your presentation on the day you give it. The presentation is not to be a recapitulation of/ report on the reading/s, nor merely a subjective reaction to it, but informed observations about it, meant to stimulate discussion.
I will solicit your choice for leadoff presentation but it is each student’s responsibility to have signed up for one. You MAY switch the date of your presentation if you find someone to switch with you AND you both confirm this with me.
If there is no leadoff presenter, we will open with a round-table, based on your observations. If more than one person has a leadoff presentation for the same class, do NOT divide the reading between you. Each person does the assignment; speak with me for further details about this.
N.B.: FOR EACH CLASS, GOOGLE THE AUTHOR/S FOR BASIC BIOGRAPHY.
Leadoff presenters MUST say something about the author/s about whom they are presenting.
--Two short (6-7 page, typed, double-spaced, hard copy), essay assignments based on assigned readings and class sessions ONLY (no off syllabus sources), requiring substantiated, analytical use of the material in coherent and grammatically correct writing. Deadlines as on the syllabus or announced in class. One-third grade reduction at missed deadline and each subsequent day of unexcused lateness (A becomes A-, etc.)
Students who are doing well in the course, as determined by the Instructor, may choose to write a short (ca. 10-page) paper on a topic of your choosing, which must have my approval, in lieu of the second essay assignment.
This course operates under the Honor Code and established norms against plagiarism: each student does her/ his own work. Neither copy, ask, offer, nor accept someone else’s work, presenting this as your own. You may also cite class notes, comments of other students, of mine, in essays; just attribute these appropriately.
For library questions, including accessing assigned reading: speak to Iris Asaf: firstname.lastname@example.org; 02- 588 2258.
For Moodle questions: speak to Max Flidler, email@example.com, 02 588-1601.
Participation: 35% (throughout the semester 25%; leadoff presentation 10%):
First essay: 30%
Second essay: 35%
Basic texts: REQUIRED (we will be reading all, most, or much of the following books):
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective Overseas Library 296.76 P715 (1 copy, available also in Main Library, Education Library)
Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, A View from Tradition Perspective Overseas Library 296.76 G798 (6 copies, available also in Main Library, Education Library)
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics E-book 001395810, Overseas Library 296.76 A237 (1 copy, available also in Main Library, Education Library)
Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism Overseas Library 296.76 R826 (1 copy, available also in Main Library, Education Library)
Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Orenstein Education library M132D L54, Main library BM 540 W7 L54
Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, eds. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut. E-book 001850143, Overseas Library 296.35 G878 (1 copy, available also in Education Library)
Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003, Education library M132D W66
RECOMMENDED (no reading assignments from these titles but much reference):
Tanakh: JPS Edition Overseas Library 221.1 J59
Rachel Biale, Women and Jewish Law: An Exploration of Women’s Issues in Halakhic
Sources Overseas Library 296.563.3 B576 (10 copies, available also in Main Library, Education Library, Law Library)
Welcome to the Course!
1. Introductory Sun. 9/25
What is Judaism?
What is feminism?
What is feminist Judaism?
How does rabbinic Judaism construct men, women—Jewish gender? What are the social implications of this construction? What are the theological implications of it?
Why does this matter?
Reading gender from the Beginning (literally): Genesis 1-3
Phyllis Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” in Elizabeth Koltun, ed., The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives, 217-240 296.76 K81; ERESERVE 002016640
2. Critique Tues. 9/27
Susannah Heschel, “Introduction”; Rachel Adler, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There: Halakha and the Jewish Woman”; Cynthia Ozick, “Notes Toward Finding the Right Question”, in On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader, ed. Susannah Heschel, xx-xxxvi, 3-18, 120-151. 296.76(08) H583; ERESERVE 002016638
Esther Tiktin, “A Modest Beginning,” in The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives, ed. Elizabeth Koltun, 129-135. 296.76 K81; ERESERVE 002016640
No Class 10/2-4
3. Judith Plaskow Sun. 10/9
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai, Introduction, ch. 1-2 (selection), pp. vii-xix, 1-52. 296.76 P715; ERESERVE 002019313 (p. vii-xxi);002019311 (p. 1-24); 002019312 (p. 25-52)
No Class 10/11-13; 10/16-24
4. Plaskow, continued Tues. 10/25
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai, ch. 2 (remainder), 3 (selection), pp. 52-107. 296.76 P715
5. Plaskow, continued Sun. 10/30
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai, ch. 3 (remainder), 4, pp.107-169. 296.76 P715
6. Plaskow, concluding Tues. 11/1
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai, ch. 5-6, pp. 170-238. 296.76 P715
7. An Early Orthodox Feminism Sun. 11/6
Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, Preface, pp.ix-xi, pp.3-55. 296.76 G798
8. Tues. Greenberg, continued 11/8
Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, pp. 57-123. 296.76 G798
9. Sun. Greenberg, concluding 11/13 First essay assignment distributed
Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, pp.125-178. 296.76 G798
10. Tues. Rachel Adler 11/15
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism, Introduction, chps. 1-2, pp. xiv-xxvii, pp.1-59. E-book 001395810, 296.76 A237
11. Adler, continued Sun. 11/20
*Midterm exam week. First essay assignment due. Details TBA
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism, ch. 3, pp.61-103. E-book 001395810, 296.76 A237
12. Adler, continued Tues. 11/22 *Midterm exam week
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism, ch. 4, pp. 105-167. E-book 001395810, 296.76 A237
13. Adler, concluding Sun. 11/27
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism, ch. 5, pp.169-217. E-book 001395810, 296.76 A237
14. Tamar Ross Tues. 11/29
Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah, Preface, ix-xxii, ch. 1-3, pp. 1-45. 296.76 R826
15. Ross, continued Sun. 12/4
Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah, ch. 9-10, pp. 163-212. 296.76 R826; ERESERVE 001364557
16. From Theory to Practice: Creating and Doing Feminist Judaism Tues. 12/6
Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Debra Orenstein, 5-75 (personal accounts, reads quickly) Main Library BM 540 W7 L54; ERESERVE 002019293 (p. 5-33), 002019299 (p. 35-51); 002019301 (p. 53-75)
17. From Theory to Practice, continued: Creating Ritual Sun. 12/11
Shulamit S. Magnus, “Ritual,” in, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Enclyclopedia, Paula Hyman and Dalia Ofer, eds. (also available in: "Ritual," Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Paula Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. (1992), 2:1150-1154). ERESERVE 001970633
Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Debra Orenstein, 83-135. Education library M132D L54, Main library BM 540 W7 L54; ERESERVE 002019303 (p. 83-98); 002019304 (p. 99-116); 002019306 (p. 117-135)
18. From Theory to Practice, continued: Ritual Tues. 12/13
Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Debra Orenstein, 141-210. Education library M132D L54, Main library BM 540 W7 L54; ERESERVE 002019307 (p. 141-156); 002019308 (p. 157-184); 002019309 (p. 185-210)
Please take this volume in hand and review the other segments/ chapters of the book, which we will not be reading, just to be aware of the other events/ situations, about which it has chapters.
19. From Theory to Practice, continued: Prayer Sun. 12/18
Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, eds. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut,
“Personal Vignettes,” 237-305. E-book 001850143, Overseas Library 296.35 G878
20. From Theory to Practice: Women and Jewish Sacred Space: the Kotel Tues. 12/20
Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut: “Prayer for Women of the Wall”, “Preface”, “Introduction”, part one, pp. xi-xv, xix-xl, 3-62, 94-111 Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003, Education library M132D W66; ERESERVE 002019408-002019415 (p. xi-xv, xix-xl, 3-62).
NO CLASS Sun. 12/25
21. From Theory to Practice: Continued: Sacred Space. Conclusions Tues. 12/27
Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut, pp. 63-93, 115-133, 209-235, 335-354 Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003, Education library M132D W66