Jews and Gender: The Challenge to Hierarchy

By Jonathan Frankel | Go to book overview

Preface

When we began publishing this annual in 1984 (actually, we were not sure then that it could come out every year), we stated the hope that it would become a “clearinghouse” for scholars around the world working in the field of modern Jewish studies. The inclusion of a large book-review section in every volume represents one way in which we have tried to further this idea. And the same goal is served by setting aside a central place in every issue of Studies for a “symposium, ” an extensive collection of articles grouped around a selected theme. But, of course, if the annual is to be a clearinghouse, it cannot always be (to mix metaphors) at the “cutting edge” of scholarly fashion.

In choosing the theme for a given symposium we have to be confident that there is a relatively large pool of scholars available from whom we can request articles that will be—or so we hope—at once relevant, original, thought-provoking, readable, and, when taken together, also varied and comprehensive. It is for this reason that we chose to delay until now the decision to devote a symposium to gender-related issues. As a number of contributors to this volume point out, the impact of feminism and of women's studies on Jewish scholarship has made itself felt only gradually (and, some of them would doubtless say, painfully). But whether or not we were right to wait as long as we did, there can be no doubt that the collection of articles in volume XVI more than meets our expectations. There is a fascinating mix of the descriptive and prescriptive, of the neutral and polemical, the “modern” and “postmodern” approaches. No less varied are the extraordinarily disparate topics selected by the contributors as well as the many areas of specialization: history; rabbinic and Judaic studies; sociology; anthropology; and literature. At the same time, for all the heterogeneity, these 12 articles do collectively suggest that feminism, however fragmented, has by now intruded its own perspective into almost every nook and cranny of Jewish life, Judaism, and Jewish scholarship—hence, the subtitle of this volume, which was arrived at only after the contributions had been received and their content mentally assimilated: “The Challenge to Hierarchy. ”

We are very grateful for the ongoing and extremely important support that Studies has again received from the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation of New York and the Federman Fund of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University, And, as in the past, it is the editor's privilege to be able to thank the two managing editors, Laurie Fialkoff and Hannah Levinsky-Koevary, who are not only marvelously professional, creative, and exacting, but who also ensure that nobody entering the editorial room is allowed to take things (himself or herself, life or whatever) too seriously.

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