The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times

By Reeva Spector Simon; Michael Menachem Laskier et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
13
The World, or Women

SARA REGUER

The world of women in traditional Islamic society existed for the most part alongside, yet separate from, the world of men. Islamic, Middle Eastern, and North African culture dictated almost total segregation of the genders, limiting the world of women to the family and the community of women, except in one important arena: economics. In discussing Jewish women in that region, therefore, we must look at the ever narrowing concentric circles of the larger Islamic society, the smaller circle of the Jews, and the even smaller circle of Jewish women.

The premodern, or traditional, Middle Eastern world was a complex one, yet in a general cultural sense it was united. The Ottoman Empire and Morocco of the eighteenth century were multiefhnic, pluralistic, and diverse; the Persian Empire was less so. Jews, as dhimmi, were part of this milieu, with a strong religious identity. That does not mean that all Jews were the same, for they too identified themselves according to their differences in social class, economic status, gender, and specific customs. Jewish women were also members of many different social categories, but their lives were alike enough in the sum of their parts to permit generalization. The main exceptions to most generalizations were the women of Yemen, Kurdistan, and those living in tiny rural farming villages because the Jews were an urban group for the most part.

Middle Eastern society held it as a truism that men and women had different natures and capacities and so ought to play different roles. Male superiority was assumed, and all were brought up to accept the gender inequalities as part of the natural order, along with accepting one's place in society and one's deference to superiors. When a girl child was born into this premodern Jewish world, the celebration was more muted than had the child been a boy. Judaism had several rituals for boys, but for girls it had only the

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The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Contributors xiii
  • Part 1 - Themes 1
  • Chapter 1 3
  • Chapter 2 - Europe in the Middle East 19
  • Chapter 3 - Economic Lire 29
  • Chapter 4 - Community Leadership and Structure 49
  • Chapter 5 - Religfion: Rabbinic Tradition and the Response to Modernity 65
  • Chapter 6 - Intellectual Lire 85
  • Chapter 7 - Jewish Languages Enter the Modern Era 113
  • Chapter 8 - Education 142
  • Chapter 9 - Zionism 165
  • Chapter 10 - Beliefs And, Customs 180
  • Chapter 11 - Material Culture 205
  • Chapter 12 - Music 224
  • Chapter 13 - The World, or Women 235
  • Part 2 - Country-By-Country Survey 275
  • Chapter 14 - Ottoman Turkey 277
  • Chapter 15 - The Ottoman Balkans 292
  • Chapter 16 - Turkey 303
  • Chapter 17 - Syria and Lebanon 316
  • Chapter 18 - Erets Israel/Palestine, 1800–1948 335
  • Chapter 19 - Iraq 347
  • Chapter 20 - Iran and Afghanistan 367
  • Chapter 21 - Yemen 389
  • Chapter 22 - Egypt and the Sudan 409
  • Chapter 23 - Libya 431
  • Chapter 24 - Tunisia 444
  • Chapter 25 - Algeria 458
  • Chapter 26 - Morocco 471
  • Appendix - Middle East and North African Jewry Cd 505
  • Index 529
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