Jewish Women in Medieval Ashkenaz

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Medieval Jewish society, like all traditional Jewish culture, was run by patriarchal hierarchy “Philosophical, medical, and religious views of the time all supported the view that men were superior to women both in nature and in deed” . Women’s position in society was secondary in comparison to that of men. They were characterized as lightheaded, weak, easily seduced, and linked to sorcery. This essay will focus on the Jewish women living in the medieval society of Ashkenaz, a region of northern France and Germany, around the time of 1000-1300 CE. Several questions will be addressed pertaining to the social status, educational opportunities, and their participation in society will be examined. Although not much was written about the women of that time, scholars who have analyzed translated Hebrew texts, laws, religious rituals, municipal records, and medical texts can provide arguments with careful insight into their lives. Avraham Grossman, a Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Elisheva Baumgarten both advocate the argument of women advancing in society, however they also provided some contrasting insight. In Grossman’s Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe, he examined how several legal rulings made by Rabbi Gershom empowered women in the social, religious, and economic sphere, while discrimination in education held them back. Baumgarten, who mentions Grossman’s work in Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, and her other novel Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe expanded Grossman’s argument further into the religious sphere, focusing on rituals ,which dominated Jewish society. She focused on empowerment and discrimination women went... ... middle of paper ... ...man and Baumgarten stress, which spoke volumes, is that these women did not empower themselves; it was the men of the Jewish society who empowered them. Works Cited Baskin, R. Judith, New Visions of Women in Medieval Ashkenaz (Massachusetts:University of Massachusetts, 2004) Baumgarten, Elisheva, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004). Baumgarten, Elisheva, "Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)" Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, March 1, 2009, accessed April 10, 2014 . Baumgarten, Elisheva, Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) Grossman, Avraham, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe (New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2004).

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