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What Is Maintenance, And Why Does It Matter?

Hosted By: Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, Jewish Studies at Fordham University

The concept of “maintenance” — food, clothing, or other in-kind provision to family members labeled dependents — has a long history from antiquity to modernity, in both Jewish and non-Jewish contexts. This talk explores the rich history of this term, as well as its more remote use in classical rabbinic texts. For the rabbis, maintenance was not just a legal obligation, but a malleable concept for defining and thinking through relationships within the household. The talk considers maintenance not only as a legal term but as an entry point into constructions of gender and labor in the ancient Jewish household.

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