The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Rothberg International School

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Autumn 2018




 Mon. and Wed. 12:30-14:00



Professor Shulamit Magnus




Course Description:


In this course, we will read some of the classic works of Jewish feminist critique of traditional Judaism and proposals for a Judaism which is in female as well as male image. We will look at contemporary issues that engage feminist Jews, women and men, such as law, rituals, and prayer, and see how theory gets applied in practice.


This syllabus contains basic information for which you are responsible. Ask me any questions about it. 




Course Requirements:


-- Attendance will be noted and will count toward the final grade. Class begins on time.


If you miss a class (see RIS policy about this, too), sit with another student and review the class AFTER you’ve done the reading. This will help you both. Someone else’s notes won’t make much sense; do an oral review: research shows that review and social (as opposed to solitary learning), are the most effective ways to learn.



--Informed participation: I will certainly give my input but this is not a lecture class. I expect students to have done the reading assigned for each class thoughtfully and to participate in an informed way in discussion. Observations (see below), should help you enter the discussion. If you have trouble entering discussion, see me.


It is each student’s responsibility to OBTAIN readings in time to have done them for the class assigned. There are no excused failures to OBTAIN readings.  NOTE: Library calls numbers and book locations are ON THIS SYLLABUS.


Please refer any questions or problems of access to materials to Iris Asaf, RIS Reference Librarian,; 02- 588 2258, or her staff in plenty of time to trouble shoot any issues. If a problem remains unresolved, let me know.


For Moodle questions: speak to Katy Rydler,, 02 588-1601.


PLEASE NOTE: Because of copyright restrictions the Library can copy or scan no more than 20% of a book. Sometimes, part but not all of an assigned a reading will be scanned; sometimes none of it will be, and the reading is available only in hard copy.


Scout all this out well in advance so you have the reading when you need it. I suggest that you scope out access to readings A WEEK before you need to do them. Note

that you will need to do much of the reading using reserve copies and must allot needed time and cooperate with one another to share copies efficiently.


If an unavoidable circumstance—illness, emergency—prevents you from DOING readings, if you are able, please communicate with me before class. If, in such a case, if you are able to attend class, do.


** STUDY ABROAD AND CULTURE SHOCK: As an international student in a new environment, full of new challenges, it is normal to feel stress. RIS has many support systems to help. Please speak with me or with other RIS staff sooner than later. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness or failure. We want you to succeed, enjoy learning, and have a fulfilling semester!


OBSERVATIONS: Come to class with ONE PAGE of 3-5 main points you take from the reading. To do this: sit back after you’ve done the reading, or while you are doing it, and ask yourself what strikes you in the readings; why these particular points strike you; what you have learned.


Observations can also be about the author’s method or language, and of course, critique of her argument. As we proceed, compare readings. Observations need not be brilliant or perfect, just show thoughtful engagement with the reading.


Observations should NOT be a report on the readings; your notes on them; or simply subjective reactions. See directions for the Leadoff Presentation, below (and vice versa).


Hand in Observations at the end of each class. I will grade them with check; check plus; check minus, for: sufficient; superior; not meeting the assignment criteria. The quality of Observations and your record in submitting them count toward the final grade.


Please bring the reading to class, whether via laptops or in hard copy. This or specific direction during class are the only permitted use of laptops during class. No cell phone use during class except to access readings .


Leadoff Presentation: Each student will lead off a class session in an analytical presentation of 7-10 minutes—do not exceed this limit—of several main points you take from the readings. Think of this as an enlarged, spoken version of Observations. As with Observations, the Presentation is not to be a recapitulation of/ report on the reading/s, nor merely a subjective reaction to it, but informed observations about it, meant to focus and stimulate class discussion. Practice your Presentation: this will help keep you in the time limit, smooth your presentation.


Tips to doing Observations AND Leadoffs, aside from those stated, above:


Use informed “I” statements: not just “I liked; I hated” but why, based on analysis of the reading, you think a point is a point: “What struck me about these readings was… because”; “When I read this, I thought…” “When I read this, it reminded me of what we read in…but it differed in the following way/s…” Refer to specifics in the readings.


Hand in a ONE-page outline of your Presentation on the day you give it in lieu of Observations. Please see me after your Leadoff for feedback.


I will solicit your choice for Leadoff Presentation but it is each student’s responsibility to have signed up for one—or more than one (extra credit). You MAY switch the date of your presentation if you find someone to switch with you AND you both confirm this with me.


If there is no Leadoff Presenter, we will open with a round-table, in which everyone contributes a point taken from your Observations. If more than one person has a Leadoff Presentation for the same class, do NOT divide the reading between you. Each person does the whole assignment. Speak with me for further details about this.


For each class, google the author/s for basic biography. Leadoff Presenters MUST say something about the author/s about whom they are presenting.




--Two short (6-8 page, typed, double-spaced, hard copy), essay assignments based on assigned readings and class sessions ONLY (use no off syllabus sources), requiring substantiated, analytical use of the material in coherent and grammatically correct writing. Deadlines as on the syllabus or announced in class. One-third grade reduction at missed deadline and each subsequent 24-hours of unexcused lateness (A becomes A-, etc.) Final submission requirements as directed by RIS policy.


Students doing well in the course, as determined by the Instructor, may choose to write a short (ca. 10-page) paper on a topic of your choosing, which must have my approval, in lieu of the second essay assignment, as the course Final.


This course operates under the Honor Code, established norms for intellectual honesty, against plagiarism, and RIS policy: each student does her/ his own work. Do not copy, ask, offer, or accept someone else’s work, presenting this as your own. You MAY cite class notes, comments of other students, or mine, in essays; just attribute these (e.g., “Class discussion,” with date), as you would any other source.




Participation: 35% (throughout the semester 25%; leadoff presentation 10%):

First essay: 30%

Second essay: 35% (meant to recognize improvement)


Basic texts: REQUIRED (we will be reading much or all of the following books):


Reading List


Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. Overseas Library 296.76 P715 (5 copies);  Main Library (2 copies); Education Library (1 copy).


Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, A View from Tradition Perspective E-Book; Overseas Library 296.76 G798 (6 copies);  Main Library (3 copies);  Education Library (1 copy).


Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.76 A237 (1 copy); Main Library (1 copy); Education Library (1 copy).


Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism Overseas Library 296.76 R826 (3 copies); Main Library (1 copy); Education Library (1 copy).


Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Orenstein Education library M132D L54 (1 copy);  Main library BM 540 W7 L54 (1 copy)


Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, eds. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut. E-BOOK;  Overseas Library 296.35 G878 (1 copy);  Education Library (1 copy).


Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut. Overseas Library 296.76 J627  (2 copies); Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003 (1 copy); Education library M132D W66  (1 copy).


RECOMMENDED (no reading assignments from these titles but much reference in class: good to have your own [paperback] copy): Tanakh: JPS Edition. Overseas Library 221.1 J59


Rachel Biale, Women and Jewish Law: An Exploration of Women’s Issues in Halakhic

Sources  Overseas Library 296.563.3 B576 (10 copies);  Main Library BM 540 W7 B54 (2 copies); Education Library 296.563. B52 (1 copy); Law Library 141.515 ò (1 copy).




1. Introductory    Oct. 8


--What is Judaism?

--What is feminism?

--What is feminist Judaism? Jewish feminism? Any difference?

--How does rabbinic Judaism construct men, women—Jewish gender?

--What are the social implications of this construction?

--What are the theological implications of this construction?

--Why does this matter?


In class: Reading gender from the Beginning (literally): Genesis 1-3, 5:1-2


Phyllis Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” in Elizabeth Koltun, ed., The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives, 217-240. Overseas Library 296.76 K81; ERESERVE 002016640


2.  Critique   Oct. 10


Leadoff presenter:


Susannah Heschel, “Introduction”; Rachel Adler, “The Jew Who Wasn’t There: Halakha and the Jewish Woman”; Cynthia Ozick, “Notes Toward Finding the Right Question”; Judith Plaskow, “The Right Question is Theological,” ALL IN:  On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader, ed. Susannah Heschel, , xiii-xxxiii, 3-18, 120-151, 223-233. Overseas Library 296.76(08) H583; ERESERVE 002016638


Esther Tiktin, “A Modest Beginning,” in The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives, ed. Elizabeth Koltun, 129-135. Overseas Library 296.76 K81; ERESERVE 002016640


3.  Judith Plaskow      Oct. 15


Leadoff presenter:


Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai,  Introduction, ch. 1-2 (selection). ERESERVE (p. vii-xix); ERESERVE (p. 1-52). Overseas Library 296.76 P715







4.  Plaskow, continued    Oct. 17


Leadoff presenter:


Plaskow, Standing Again, ch. 2 (remainder), 3 (selection), pp. 52-107. Overseas Library 296.76 P715


5. Plaskow, continued     Oct. 22


Leadoff presenter:


Rita Gross, “Female God Language in a Jewish Context,” in Womanspirit Rising, eds. Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow, 166-173. ERESERVE


Plaskow, Standing Again, ch. 3 (remainder), 4, pp.107-169. Overseas Library 296.76 P715


6. Plaskow, concluding    Oct. 24


Leadoff presenter:


Plaskow, Standing Again, ch. 5-6, pp. 170-238. Overseas Library 296.76 P715


Think back over this book: what have you learned? How have your definitions of “Judaism” and “feminism” changed because of it; how are they different from what you said about this at the outset of the course (see the first session, above)?


7. Early Orthodox Feminism    Oct. 29                        


Leadoff presenter:


Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah, chp.1, selection, pp. 11-19 only. Overseas Library 296.76 R826 ; ERESERVE


Saul Berman, “The Status of Women in Hakakhic Judaism,” in Tradition, 14:2 (Fall, 1973), 5-28. E-JOURNAL


Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism, Preface, pp.ix-xi, chp. 1, pp.3-20. Overseas Library 296.76 G798; E-BOOK


(N.B. For some reason, Greenberg’s chapters do not have numbers; I am numbering them here, for consistency with the rest of the syllabus. We are reading this entire book, reading its chapters consecutively.


8. Greenberg, continued     Oct. 31


Leadoff presenter:


Greenberg, On  Women and Judaism, chps. 2- 4, pp. 21-73. Overseas Library 296.76 G798; E-BOOK


9. Greenberg, continued   Nov. 5    First essay assignment distributed


Leadoff presenter:


Greenberg, On  Women,  chps. 5-6, pp.75-123. Overseas Library 296.76 G798; E-BOOK


10.  Greenberg, concluding Nov. 7


Leadoff presenter:


Greenberg, On Women, chps, 7-10, pp.125-178. Overseas Library 296.76 G798; E-BOOK


As we did with Plaskow: having read this book, what have you learned? How has your definition, your understanding of Jewish feminism/ feminist Judaism, changed? Compare these two books.


*Midterm exam week:  Nov. 11-15


11.  First essay assignment due Nov.12      


No reading for today and no class session. Submit your essay to the Office in hard copy and to me by email today by NOON today. You MAY submit earlier.


12.    Rachel Adler   Nov. 14


Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, Introduction, chp.3, pp. xiv-xxvii, pp.61-103.  E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.76 A237  *Note: Adler is not only theoretical in this chapter but discusses what she thinks “works” and doesn’t, and why, in liturgy. Do note this.


Leadoff presenter:


13. Adler, continued   Nov. 19


Leadoff presenter:


Adler, Engendering, ch. 4, selections, pp. 105-148, bottom, 156- 167.

E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.76 A237




14. Adler, concluding   Nov. 21


Leadoff presenter:


Rachel Adler, Engendering, ch. 5, Epilogue, pp.169-215. E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.76 A237


15.  Tamar Ross  Nov. 26


Leadoff presenter:


Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics, Introduction, chp.2, pp. 21-51.  E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.76 A237


Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah, Preface, chp. 1, selections, pp.ix-xxii; 3-11, 19-45.  ERESERVE (p. 3-19)




16. Ross, concluding Nov. 28


Leadoff presenter:


Tamar Ross, Expanding, chps.10-12, Epilogue, pp. 184-212,  225-249.   Overseas Library 296.76 R826; ERESERVE


17. From Theory to Practice: Creating and Doing Feminist Judaism  Dec. 3


Leadoff presenter:


Shulamit S. Magnus, “Ritual,” in, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Enclyclopedia, Paula Hyman and Dalia Ofer, eds. (also available in: "Ritual," Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Paula Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. (1992), 2:1150-1154). ERESERVE 001970633


Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Debra Orenstein,  Introduction, pp.xvii-xxix, and pp. 5-24, 28-46, 57- 75 Main Library BM 540 W7 L54; ERESERVE (pp.5-33); ERESERVE (pp.35-51); ERESERVE (pp.53-75).


Questions to think about in this (and following) reading: What is “ritual”? What purpose/s does it serve?


What holes do the specific rituals we read about for today fill? Do they fill a hole, in your opinion? Do these rituals “work”? If so, what makes them “work”? And if not, why don’t they “work”? Can we “over-ritualize”? What is the danger of “over-ritualizing”?


Think back to Adler’s chp. 3; see her comments on what works and doesn’t in liturgy.



18. From Theory to Practice, continued: Creating Ritual   Dec. 5


Leadoff presenter:


Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (v.1), ed. Debra Orenstein, 94-116, 141-210, 359-376 . JOS on order, Education library M132D L54,  Main library BM 540 W7 L54; ERESERVE (pp.99-116), ERESERVE (pp.141-156).


Please skim the table of contents to see sections and chapters which are not assigned, just to be aware of the other events/ situations for which feminist Jews have created rituals.


19.  From Theory to Practice, continued: Prayer  Dec. 10


Leadoff presenter:


Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, eds. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut,

“Personal Vignettes,” (various authors) and Paula Hyman, “Looking to the Future, 237-283, 297-305. E-BOOK; Overseas Library 296.35 G878

20.  From Theory to Practice: Women and Jewish Sacred Space: the Kotel  Dec. 12


Leadoff presenter:


Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut: “Prayer for Women of the Wall”, “Preface”, “Introduction”, part one, pp. xi-xv, xix-xl, 3-62, 94-111 SEE THE PHOTO SECTION IN THIS BOOK  Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003, Education library M132D W66; ERESERVE  (p. xi, xiii-xv, xix-xl, 3-35, 63-107)


21. From Theory to Practice: Continued: Sacred Space   Dec. 17


Women of the Wall,  eds. Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut, pp. 63-93, 94-111, 115-133, 209-235, 335-354 Main library BM 540 W7 W64 2003, Education library M132D W66, ERESERVE  (p. xi, xiii-xv, xix-xl, 3-35, 63-107)


Original Women of the Wall, tefilla policy (I will email this one–page document to you).


Alden Solovy, “The Truth About the Men Who Hate Women of the Wall,” 


Leadoff presenter:


22.  The Kotel Struggle; Course   Conclusions  Dec. 19


There will be no lead off presenter today. Instead, use your Observations from the beginning of the course till now and come to class with 1-2 pages, maximum, of summary thoughts about what you have learned in this course; what has changed in your thinking. We will do a round table, with each person contributing her/ his comments.


Shulamit S. Magnus, “After the Kotel Deal: Don’t Get Mad, Educate,” Op Ed, Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2017. Free access:


­­­___“Decision Time for the Supreme Court,” Times of Israel, June 14, 2017. Free access:


___“A Momentous Ruling,” Op Ed, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2017. Free access:


___“On Sacred Dreams and Civil Space,” Op Ed, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 14, 2016. Free access:


___“Ben Gurion Moment at the Kotel,” Op Ed, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 20, 2016. Free access:


___“What’s Behind the Curtain in the Kotel Deal, Response to Natan Sharansky,” Op Ed,    Jerusalem Post, Feb. 26, 2016. Free access:


___ “Deal or No Deal: We Shall Not Be Moved,” Op Ed, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 28, 2016. Free access:


___ Comments in the Jerusalem Report, Special Symposium, “Crisis Deferred,” about the Kotel.  Read my remarks. Here is the link: