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Prize Evening and Book Launch:

Forsaken Children: The Backyard of Mandate Tel-Aviv (June 10th, 2009)

This year, the center culminated our year of busy campus activities with a celebration in honor of our prize recipients, and with the presentation of Dr. Tammy Razi’s new book, "Forsaken Children: The Backyard of Mandate Tel-Aviv". The evening, hosted on June 10 in the Beck auditorium, began with an address by Prof. Tova Cohen, and the dispensation of prizes to our 2008-2009 beneficiaries. Tsippi Levin-Byron addressed the auditorium on behalf of all the recipients with great thanks to the Heller family, and a short description of her research.

The evening continued with an interesting panel dedicated to Dr. Tammy Razi’s new book, chaired by Dr. Lilach Rosenberg-Friedman. Razi’s book analyzes the treatment of children on the fringes of society during the period of the British Mandate and the establishment of social services in pre-state Israel. Razi teaches in the Bar-Ilan Gender Studies Program and at Sapir College in the Negev. Prof. Margalit Shilo discussed the book and remarked that the book does not only analyze the situation of the children during this time period, but also contributes greatly to our understanding of the entire social situation in Israel during those years. Dr. Dafna Hirsch gave a contextual history of the support which was established for children at the time by organizations such as Tipat Chalav and the health maintenance organizations. Hirsch spoke about the initiative of women in organizations such as Hadassa, and other Zionist organizations who were supportive during the mandate. She continued to stress how impo rtant the book is as a starting point for more discussions on the topic, in multiple fields of study.

Dr. Tammy Razi herself expressed tremendous gratitude for the support which has enabled her to research and publish the book. She offered advice to younger scholars in the audience and encouraged them to realize the privilege that they have which enables them to be part of such important research taking place today in gender studies.

From Practice to Theory and Back to Practice: First Annual Conference (May 20th, 2009)

Activism, feminist pedagogies, the feasibility for multicultural and multinational work, relationships between women’s organizations and gender theorists, litigation as an act of political grace, as well as reworking bodily experiences into knowledge and spirituality, were only some of the themes explored during the unique conference held on May 20th in Bar-Ilan University.

The one day conference was organized by the students of "Gender in the Field" track of the graduate program in the Dafna Izraeli Gender Studies Program. The conference was carried out with the cooperation and great support of The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism, The Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status, The Graduate Program for Gender Studies, and the The Dafna Fund. The aim of the conference was to establish a platform for ongoing discussion and study of the interface and relationships between the production of knowledge and production of activism in the field of gender. This was a unique opportunity to feature work in the area of women and Judaism taking place in the present.

The enthusiastic response of prospective speakers produced more than 120 papers and workshops which were submitted to the conference organizers. Twenty two presentations and three workshops were selected, and presented to an audience of over 200 people, both activists and researchers.

The conference gave stage to veteran and well established organizations as well as smaller, less organized and relatively new groups. The forum was also a good opportunity to feature groups whose work is less recognized in the Israeli feminist scene.

It was a tremendous success and the amount of positive response from the conference has already allowed us to begin planning next year’s event. We look forward to continued cooperation with the “Gender in the Field” program in the future.

Gender and Jewish Thought: A Conference in Boston (April 26-27, 2009)

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute hosted a second conference that was co-sponsored by the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism. Last year the Center co-sponsored a conference on Gender, Religion and Law. The theme of the conference this year was Gender and Jewish Thought. The conference began with a keynote lecture by Prof. Daniel Boyarin (Berkeley) titled “A Love Surpassing Women: The Homme-eroticism of Torah Study”. Prof. Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic Culture, works at the unique intersection of philosophy and religion. He is the award winning author of "Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity", in which he argues for a different way of thinking about the historical development that is the partition of Judaeo-Christianity, and the book Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture. Prof. Boyarin discussed the marginalization of women in Talmudic text because of the involvement of men with each other in the context of eastern Hellenism.

The rest of the conference consisted of three sessions. The three papers in the first session were all close readings of texts – a gendered reading of midrashim concerning Adam (Dr. Gwenn Kessler); a discussion of late medieval Spanish commentary on the Proverbial chapter on the Eshet Hayil ( Dr. Alfonso Esperenza) and a discussion of the symbol of Anne Frank (Dr. Corinne Ducey). The second session presented perspectives on gender and Jewish thought from three separate disciplinary approaches: Talmud (Prof. Charlotte Fonrobert); History (Dr. Elisheva Baumgarten) and Philosophy (Prof. Susan Shapiro).

The conference ended with a round table discussion of the future of gender and Jewish thought within the academy (Hagar Lahav, Prof. Eugene Sheppard and Prof. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson). The conference was well attended by Brandeis faculty and others and opened many avenues for future conversations. We look forward to further cooperation with The Haddassah-Brandeis Institute.

A Conference in Celebration of a Decade of "Kolech" (December 16th, 2008)

Kolech, the important forum for religious feminists in Israel celebrated ten years since its' founding, at Bar-Ilan University. The festive event took place in the Mintz auditorium at the University, and was well attended by over 300 participants. The attendees came to show support for the important work of the organization throughout its short history.

Prof. Miriam Faust of Bar-Ilan University opened the conference with tremendous praise for the organization, and was followed by Dr. Hanah Kehat, one of the founders of Kolech who has been active in the organization ever since. It was a moving speech, describing the original vision which has since materialized.

The evening continued with lively discussions, on what the challenges of the organization's next ten years will be, led by Prof. Tova Cohen. Participants of the panel included Rabbinical advocate Rivka Lubitch, who spoke about the issues that women are facing in the rabbinical courts. Naama Cohen-Safrai discussed the younger generation of activists within the organization, Evelyn Zikri spoke about the identity of Mizrahi Sephardic women as activists in the organization and Dr. Eli Holzer reflected on the challenge of being both "religious" and "feminist". Prof. Noam Zohar added an interesting perspective by speaking about the halakhic obstacles and objectives facing women in the organization and Dr. Gili Zivan from the Herzog Center spoke about the activities of Kolech within the community. Rachel Keren, Director of Kolech and Midreshet Ein Hanaziv responded to the various perspectives.

Kolech distributed awards to some of its' most active members, and a prize was given to Tsippi Levin-Byron, winner of the song competition which was held by Kolech this year. The evening concluded with the presentation of the movie "Chalakah", produced by Avigail Sperber. A fascination discussion ensued about the concept of "Men, Women, and the Shekhinah between them".

The event was enlivened by the performance of Hagit Kfir, whose songs throughout the evening,added to the festivities. Kfir has become a noted personality in the organization. The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism is proud to have supported Kolech activities since its inception and to have helped host such a unique celebration of tremendous achievements.

Book Event in Honor of Dr. Tova Hartman (July 9, 2008):

The center celebrated the end of a very successful academic year with a festive evening in honor of Dr. Tova Hartman on July 11, 2008. ''Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism'' (Brandeis, University Press, 2007) was written by Dr. Hartman following her experience in the creation of Shira Chadasha, an orthodox synagogue where women are as active in the tfilla process as their male counterparts.

The book, which won the prestigious American National Jewish Book Award, was praised by Dr. Elie Holzer (Dept. of Education, Bar-Ilan University) and Dr. Elisheva Baumgarten. Dr. Hartman was commended for not having been apologetic in her narrative, and confronting a controversial subject head on. In her thanks to her supporters, Dr. Hartman explained that while many people think that we are in a post-feminist time, in Judaism, feminism still encounters many challenges.

The event was also dedicated to the 2008 Fanya Gottesfeld Heller prize recipients, who were present to accept their awards. Ruti Feuchtwanger-Segel spoke on behalf of the grantees and thanked the center and Mrs. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller, whose support was invaluable in their research. We wish all of these women good luck in the upcoming academic year.

Book Event in Honor of Prof. Margalit Shilo (June 11, 2008):

In a wonderful tribute to the important work of Prof. Margalit Shilo, the Center for the Study of Women in Judaism celebrated the recent publication of her book "The Challenge of Gender: Women in the Early Yishuv" (Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 2007). Prof. Shilo is the head of the department of the Land of Israel studies at Bar-Ilan University.

The evening in her honor, on June 11, 2008, was co-hosted by the Gender Studies Program. Dr. Gur Alroey and Prof. Debbie Bernstein (both of Haifa University) spoke, and Dr. Lilach Rosenberg (Bar Ilan University) chaired the session. Prof. Bernstein, a long time friend and colleague of Prof. Shilo talked about the characteristics of her work and about the extent of her contribution to studying of the land of Israel and gender studies. Dr. Alroey examined the case of abandoned women in pre-mandate Israel and discussed the influences of Prof. Shilo's work on his own.

HBI Spring Breakfast in Bar-Ilan (May 5, 2008):

On May 5, 2008, the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center hosted a breakfast at Bar-Ilan for the Hadassah Brandeis Institute 2008 mission to Israel. The mission focused on pioneering women in Israel, and the breakfast highlighted to work of two scholars in the Gender Studies Program at Bar-Ilan who have researched pioneering women.

Dr. Tami Razi spoke about Shoshana Persitz, the first woman who organized a social work network in Tel Aviv during pre-state Israel. Ms. Maya Michaeli spoke about Jenia Avrebach, the first female architect in Tel Aviv.

Both talks were informative and interesting. The Center for the Study of Women in Judaism has supported many topics such as these since its inception, and we are pleased to see this work come to fruition!

The breakfast was also a wonderful opportunity for our staff and the Gender Studies program to meet with the HBI mission participants, and identify similarities and ways in which we can continue to work together in the future.

Conference in Brandeis University, Boston (April 15, 2008):

Throughout the world, conflicts between women’s equality and practices justified in terms of cultural and religious norms present pressing challenges for theorists, lawyers and policy makers.

Conflicts emerge in a variety of areas, ranging from disciplining the body, to regulating the family, to establishing the parameters of national or cultural membership. The urgency of these conflicts has made them the topic of research in a number of academic disciplines.

On April 15, 2008, the Center co-sponsored a conference with the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University in Boston. The conference created an international forum for dialogue among lawyers, activists and academics working on conflicts between gender equality and practices justified in terms of cultural and religious norms.

Participants from the United States, Canada, Israel, Senegal and South Africa discussed controversies and transformative innovations in Jewish, Muslim and African customary law. It drew a crowd of over 100 people.

The tone for the day was set by a wonderful keynote lecture by Professor Martha Minow (Harvard Law School) asking the provocative question of whether the legal accommodation of religious difference is an ideal to which states should aspire or a compromise between the values of religious freedom and equality of which we should be wary. The day continued with four interesting panels, among them two which focused on women and Judaism.

Conference in Memory of Dafna Izraeli on Employment, Work and Welfare (March 18-19, 2008):

The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center hosted this year's annual conference in memory of Dafna Izraeli at Bar-Ilan University. The conference was co-hosted by The Dafna Izraeli Gender Studies Program, the Sociology Department, and the Israeli Sociological Association, and was part of a series of events taking place in Bar-Ilan for International Women's day.

The conference, Employment, Welfare and Families: Israel in a Comparative Context, drew over 250 participants over the course of the two days in March.

The aim of the conference was to try and contextualize Israel and the specific processes that have shaped its welfare state policies and its labor market from the perspective of women and families. Particular attention was given to processes that occurred since the 1980’s in comparison with the restructuring of welfare states in European countries and in North America.

The conference displayed the extent of Dafna Izraeli’s contributions in these areas and generated an updated framework for thought and discussion. The conference was also a tremendous tribute to Dafna Izraeli as a woman, professor, mother, and sister among other roles.

The conference displayed the extent of Dafna Izraeli’s contributions in these areas and generated an updated framework for thought and discussion. The conference was also a tremendous tribute to Dafna Izraeli as a woman, professor, mother, and sister among other roles.

Guests of the conference came from Norway, the United States, and Britain as a gesture to Dafna Izraeli’s scholarship which had developed parallel to their own. Susan Lewis, of Middlessex, UK, was Dafna Izraeli’s co-editor for the book "Dual Earner Families: International Perspectives". Julia Brannen, from the University of London and Rosanna Hertz, chair of women’s studies program at Wellsley College, Boston, published chapters in the book, and joined us at the conference. Two other guests were Ann Nilsen from Bergen and Irene Levine from Oslo College University who contributed with comparative, family related analysis. In addition, many Israeli scholars spoke at the conference.

Evening in Honor of Mrs. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller in New York (December 19, 2007):

This past December, the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism marked a decade since its establishment, at an event in New York. Held at Kehillat Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, the Bar-Ilan Friends in New York honored Mrs. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller and recognized her commitment to the Center and to Bar-Ilan University.

After a reception, which was well attended by friends of the Center as well as many of Mrs. Heller's friends, Dr. Elisheva Baumgarten spoke about women and Jewish history, focusing on a number of cases from the Cairo Geniza. Following her talk, Dr. Baumgarten awarded Mrs. Heller a gift expressing the university's appreciation for her generosity over the years to the Center, and her dedication to the study of women in Judaism. The evening was a great success and we hope to have the opportunity to host Mrs. Heller in Israel over the next year.

Evening in Honor of Prof. Tova Cohen and 2007-2008 Prize Recipients (June 20, 2007):

On June 20th, The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center held a festive end of the year event, together with the Gender Studies Program. The first part of the evening honored the eight graduate students who won the prestigious Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center research prizes this past year.

The second part of the evening was devoted to the recent publication of Prof. Tova Cohen and Prof. Shmuel Feiner’s book Voice of A Hebrew Maiden: Women’s Writings of the 19th Century Haskalah Movement. The publication of the book was made possible by a grant from the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center. Dr. Natalie Goldberg (Bar-Ilan University) discussed the Eastern European texts in the book and compared them to Jewish women’s intellectual and literary activity in Germany during the same period, pointing to differences between geographical and cultural surroundings. Prof. Hannah Naveh (Tel Aviv University) discussed the book and analyzed a number of short excerpts, outlining the special concerns of the young women who wrote in Hebrew and the challenges they faced when trying to take part in what was a male intellectual environment. Prof. Cohen responded to the speakers and shared her thoughts on the texts in the book and their significance for understanding women’s education and cultural identity during this period. The evening was a wonderful end to a very exciting and eventful year.

Conference on Israeli Haredi Women (June 12, 2007):

On June 12, 2007, we held a scholarly conference on various aspects of the experiences, dilemmas, images, realities, and challenges of Israeli Haredi women. This conference, the first on the topic ever held in Israeli academia, began with a key-note presentation by Professor Tamar El-Or of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was followed by three sessions each of which including several presentations.

The speakers represented a wide range of disciplines, such as history (Sharon Geva on Pesia Shershevsky), literature (Yael Shenker and Malka Schaps on women’s literature), geography (Lee Cahaner on women in the new Haredi cities), communications (Ruth Ebenstein and Rivka Neria Ben-Shahar on women in the Haredi press), and medicine (Esther Straus on the struggle with breast cancer). They presented new questions, findings, and analyses based upon the research that they conducted.

These challenging presentations sparked numerous discussions and critiques during the sessions of the conference as well as after it. The audience included men and women, Haredim and non-Haredim, graduate students as well as senior scholars, and this variety contributed considerably to the quality of the discussions. The conference was co-sponsored by the Program in Contemporary Jewry. Dr. Kimmy Caplan of the Dept. of Jewish History headed the academic committee, which included Dr. Elisheva Baumgarten, Prof. Judy Baumel-Schwartz and Dr. Yael Shenkar.

Conference on Women and Prayer (March 18, 2007):

On March 18th The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center held a conference devoted to women praying and women’s prayer. This day was organized together with Dr. Aliza Lavie, of the Dept. of Communications at Bar Ilan and author of the best-selling book Tefillat Nashim. The conference included a combination of approaches and perspectives on the topic.

The day started off with two academic sessions devoted to women’s prayers and women praying throughout history with talks by Prof. Moshe Rosman, Prof. Hava Turniansky, Dr. Elisheva Baumgarten, Dr. Vered Noam and Prof. Rachel Elior. Prof. Rosman presented a panoramic overview of changes in synagogue structures and women’s roles in prayers over the past four hundred years in Ashkenazi communities. Prof. Turniansky discussed praying in the context of Gl?ckel of Hamel’s life. Gl?ckel is the first Jewish woman who wrote an autobiography.

The talks by Noam, Baumgarten and Elior all touched upon historical discussions of women’s halakhic obligation to pray and on the contents of women’s prayers in different times and places. All the speakers discussed different methods of reading traditional sources to help find information on women and prayer that has been ignored or disregarded to date.

The afternoon was dedicated to six parallel workshops that discussed and demonstrated non-traditional methods of prayer, psychological analysis and the composition of prayers. We concluded with a panel led by Dr. Lavie in which three different perspectives on Israeli society and praying were presented by Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, Malka Pewterkovsky and Dr. Alon Gal. Sherlo discussed the tension between private petitions and obligatory prayers and gender differences in this context; Pewterkovsky spoke about the contents and dilemmas that occupy women in today’s religious world when discussing praying and Gal demonstrated how non-orthodox groups in Israel have adapted and adopted traditional prayers for new uses.

The panel led to much controversy both among the speakers and the audience and generated a lively discussion.

Private Mother, National Mother: Motherhood in Pre-State Israel (February 28, 2007):

The annual conference in memory of Prof. Dafna Izraeli, was held at Bar-Ilan University on the 28th of February. The organizing committee consisted of Prof. Margalit Shilo, Dr. Lilach Rosenberg and Smadar Sinai, from the department of Israel Studies and Archeology, and Dr. Tammy Razi, from the Gender Studies Program.

The entire conference was dedicated to discussing various aspects of mothering and motherhood during the "Yishuv" (pre-state Israel) period. The four sessions and fifteen papers presented introduced an abundance of new and extremely varied studies focusing on issues and perspectives such as case studies of different role models of motherhood, both concrete and metaphoric, of well-known public figures during this time period such as Henrietta Szold and Mania Shohat. Studies of concepts of mothering and symbols of motherhood, both in the collective agrarian society of the "Kibutzim", and the urban society, mainly in Tel-Aviv were presented as well at studies of different aspects of motherhood and nationality, such as the service of Jewish mothers in the British Forces during WWII.

Discourse and Gender in Israel (January 24, 2007):

The first interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Gender in Israel took place at Bar-Ilan University on January 24th and 25th, 2007.

The aim of the Conference was to provide a forum for presentation of research about feminist and gender discourses, focusing on the language by and about women in a variety of social and cultural contexts. It engaged scholars who have studied women's discourse from diverse fields, such as legal texts, mass communication, educational and religious texts, literature and film and those who have examined the potential of language to challenge and transform gender relations.

The feedback of the conference was overwhelmingly positive, and the participants were very enthusiastic and expressed their wish for continuity. Moreover, the conference attracted the media interest and there was wide coverage of it. A few articles were published in different newspapers, and some of the researchers were interviewed in radio programs.

We expect that discourse and gender will become a focus of debate on the public agenda.

Conference in Honor of Prof Tamar Ross (January 3, 2007):

On January 3rd, 2007 more that one hundred and fifty people joined the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism along with the Guwertz Center for Gender Studies, the Philosophy Department and the Midrasha L’nashim to honor Professor Tamar Ross who is retiring this year.

The conference took place in the Feldman building where speakers spoke to a full audience of friends, family, former students and colleagues. There was immense praise to be said for Professor Ross who has been teaching in Bar Ilan for many years. During her academic career she published over fifty articles in various scholarly journals and lectured widely at various institutions in Israel and abroad. One touching moment at the conference was an introduction given by R. Yitzhak Kraus, who collected warm remarks from several of Prof. Ross’s students and shared them with the audience.

The conference incorporated speakers from Tamar’s major areas of concentration, The Mussar Movement, Rav Kook and Contemporary Judaism, and Jewish Theology and Feminism.

Tamar Ross’s very popular book Expanding the Palace of Torah (UPNE, 2004) was published with the support of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism.

Conference on Gender, Religion and Society (May 21-22, 2006):

In May, the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center in coordination with the Gewurz center for Gender Studies sponsored a major international conference entitled “Gender, Religion and Society”. The conference brought together dozens of speakers from the academic and religious world, with the aim of addressing how gender and religion merge together in today's society. The aim of the conference was to analyze the dialogue between feminist theories and contemporary religions – their theologies, traditions, practices, and social institutions. Many speakers focused on the position of Jewish women in society.