The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust

The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust

The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust

The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust


The dominant theme of post-Holocaust Jewish theology has been that of the temporary hiddenness of God, interpreted either as a divine mystery or, more commonly, as God's deferral to human freedom. But traditional Judaic obligations of female presence, together with the traditional image of the Shekhinah as a figure of God's 'femaleness' accompanying Israel into exile, seem to contradict such theologies of absence. The Female Face of God in Auschwitz, the first full-length feminist theology of the Holocaust, argues that the patriarchal bias of post-Holocaust theology becomes fully apparent only when women's experiences and priorities are brought into historical light. Building upon the published testimonies of four women imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau - Olga Lengyel, Lucie Adelsberger, Bertha Ferderber-Salz and Sara Nomberg-Przytyk - it considers women's distinct experiences of the holy in relation to God's perceived presence and absence in the camps.God's face, says Melissa Raphael, was not hidden in Auschwitz, but intimately revealed in the female face turned towards the other as a refractive image of God, especially in the moral protest made visible through material and spiritual care for the assaulted other.


Gender research has now become more gender-inclusive rather than just women-centred, a change of great theoretical significance. The Religion and Gender Series is dedicated to publishing books which reflect that change. It will feature innovative, original research which moves away from predominantly western to global perspectives, including comparative and interdisciplinary approaches where appropriate. Firmly grounded in religious studies, books in this series will draw on a wide range of disciplines, including gender studies, philosophy, theology, sociology, history, anthropology, as well as women’s and men’s studies in religion. By recognizing the limitations of previous, exclusively androcentric approaches to the study of religions, this series will help overcome earlier deficiencies in scholarship about religion and open new intellectual horizons in the field.

Although a relatively new area of enquiry, the materials relevant to the study of religion and gender are as old as humanity. They include the roles, lives and experiences of women and men, as shaped by diverse gender norms, stereotypes and symbols prevalent in different religious, cultural and historical contexts. Issues of gender - what it means to be male or female, and ultimately what it means to be human - are central to social, philosophical, doctrinal, ethical and practical questions in every religion, and gender symbolism is of great significance in all religious worship, spirituality and doctrine. The Religion and Gender Series publishes new research on these and all other aspects of gender and religion.

Ursula King

Rita M. Gross . . .

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