Essay on Jewish Attitudes Toward Women

Essay on Jewish Attitudes Toward Women

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Urania, daughter of Abraham sang before female congregants in Worms, Qasmuna of Spain wrote rhymed verses that complemented her father’s poetry, and Benvenida Abarvanel the Italian daughter of Spanish refugees was a patroness of Jewish scholars and ventures. While today the positions these women held hardly seem shocking, these women lived during an era when, as has long been historically accepted, women held little power, leadership or communal roles. This view is changing but a discussion of Jewish attitudes toward women in the Middle Ages in both Ashkenaz and Spain is limited by the sources about women’s lives that survive. There are almost no books written by women or specifically for them. Instead, women’s lives are reflected primarily in legal writings, including codes of Jewish law, response literature, contracts related to betrothal, marriage, inheritance and business correspondences. The nature of these sources suggest that women were not viewed as participants in Jewish legal discourse, nor did the rabbis for the most part feel the need to provide women with literature that would allow them to make study a part of their religious life. At the same time, the rabbis felt that women were within jurisdiction of Jewish law and felt obligated to protect what they received as women’s rights and interests. Being so,the women of Ashkenaz enjoyed a significant improvement in their status compared with the talmudic era, and with Muslim countries. Economic, religious, and education advances for women in Ashkenaz was through the Jewish community’s transformation from an agrarian society to an urban bourgeois one. As women became more powerful economically, their status improved. Another important factor was the surrounding Christia...


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...va. "Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)." Jewish Women's Archive. Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia., 01 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Furstenberg, Rochelle. "Medieval Jewish Women in Religion and Business." Medieval Jewish Women in Religion and Business. My Jewish Learning, June 2002. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Mack, Stan. The Story of the Jews. 1st ed. New York: Villard, 1998. Print.
Melammed, Renee Levine. "Spain | Jewish Women's Archive." Spain | Jewish Women's Archive. N.p., 20 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Roth, Norman. "Women." Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encylopedia. New York: Routledge, 2003. 657-62. Print.
Rothstein, Alexandra. "Medieval Jewish Attitudes Toward Women." My Jewish Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Shaviv, Miriam. "For Women, Middle Ages Might Have Been Golden." The Jewish Daily Forward. N.p., 11 Feb. 2005. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

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