Danger: Women with Books
November 1, 2023
SESSION 1: Women, Books and the Seder
It is notable that the hand-written and illustrated manuscripts of the Passover Haggadah often depict their patrons holding and reading from books. It is particularly striking when women appear. But these illustrations a variety of questions. Do they reflect actual practices? Were such practices normative? And if they do not represent the way things were for the medieval Jewish patrons, why do they appear at all?
November 9, 2023
SESSION 2: Re-writing the Rules: Women, Halakhah and the creation of Jewish Books
Are you the kind of person who stays for the credits at the movies? Well, if you were a scholar of Jewish art, you would then certainly read the colophons of manuscripts—the short concluding texts that can contain patron names and/or information about artists. Fascinatingly, a number of these have come down to us in which women have literally inscribed their participation in the creation of sacred texts. What was the halakhic (legal) position on such practice? To what does the fact that it occurred testify?
November 16, 2023
SESSION 3: To Write Holy Words: A Soferet Encounters the Sacred
Professor Epstein will be in conversation with Jen Taylor Friedman about her practice as a soferet (scribe) and the experience of writing a variety of different types of manuscripts, including the first Torah scroll known to have been created by a woman.
November 30, 2023
SESSION 4: Queering The Torah Text: Strange Letters and A Woman’s Hand
There are still patrons in the world today who commission Jewish manuscripts. Some are ostensibly Orthodox, yet they insist on female scribes. Why? This session will explore the creation of one of the most radical (yet deeply traditional!) manifestations of this impulse, the creation of a Torah scroll full of “strange letters,” a little-known tradition that is being revived in our own day.
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