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In Search of Ottoman Jewish Women’s Lives

Hosted By: Haberman Institute

Although our knowledge about Ottoman Jewish women’s history has expanded significantly in recent decades, there is still much we don’t know about the lives they led as the modern era dawned. Among the questions that remain are those surrounding the extent of Ottoman Jewish women’s autonomy—whether, when, and in which contexts they had the space to forge their own paths in life, to marry for love, pursue their own professional interests, or achieve financial independence.

Unlike those who have productively mined Jewish women’s oral traditions and autobiographical writings for later, post-Ottoman periods, those working on earlier eras find first-person accounts left behind by Ottoman Jewish women only rarely, and with great difficulty. Yet this need not deter us from asking these questions. Even those who did not leave behind memoirs or personal correspondence have left us other bread crumbs—in the advertisements they placed in the press, in the businesses they registered, the lesson plans they created, the photographs they posed for and kept, the portraits they had commissioned, the songs they recorded, and the pieces of clothing they designed, cut, and sewed, leaving us with a wealth of textual and material traces.

This talk will pursue a few such cases, offering selected portraits of little-known Jewish women who lived during the final half-century of the Ottoman Empire.

The event listed here is hosted by a third party. My Jewish Learning/70 Faces Media is not responsible for its content or for errors in the listing.


Dr. Julia Phillips Cohen

Julia Phillips Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Program in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of two books: Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), and—together with Sarah Abrevaya Stein—Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014). She has published articles in a range of venues, including the American Historical Review, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Jewish Social Studies, Jewish Quarterly Review, and AJS and, most recently, in the volume Jews, Liberalism, Antisemitism: A Global History, edited by Abigail Green and Simon Levis Sullam.
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Haberman Institute

The Haberman Institute provides adult learning opportunties in Jewish thought, history, and culture.
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