Rabbi Ellenson on German Orthodox Rabbinical Writings : on the Jewish Textual Education of Women

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rabbi David Ellenson has published an important essay on "German Orthodox Rabbinical Writings on the Jewish Textual Education of Women: The Views of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer" in Gender and Jewish History, edited by Marion A. Kaplan and Deborah Dash Moore.  This collection of essays is dedicated in honor of Paula E. Hyman, one of the founders of Jewish gender studies.  The volume reveals the importance of gender in interpreting the Jewish past and highlights the profound influence that feminist scholarship has had on the study of Jewish history since the 1970s.  The original essays explore the impact of gender on Jewish religious practices and political behavior, educational accomplishments and communal structures, acculturation, and choice of occupations.  Topics encompass Jewish women's creativity and spirituality, violence against women, Jews' reactions to persecution in the Holocaust, and Judaism as a lived religion and culture. 

In his essay, Rabbi Ellenson traces the restriction of Jewish women to the domestic sphere to Psalm 45:14, which was understood in the Talmud as excluding women from access to classical Jewish textual study.  He describes the near revolutionary change in the status of Jewish women's access to study through the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-88) of Frankfurt , the great champion of New-Orthodox Judaism in the modern world, and Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer (1820-99) of Berlin, founder of the first Orthodox rabbinical seminary on German soil.  Their stances provided a pathway that later generations would expand, resulting in classical Jewish education becoming a reality for every-increasing numbers of Jewish women, and an important chapter in the evolving role of women in Jewish religious and communal life. , 


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