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Tel Aviv: Yedioth Aharonoth, 2001. 205 pp.
This book, the product of a conference held at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, (1) not only offers its readers the opportunity to read the papers given at an interesting and stimulating gathering, but, more importantly, constitutes a valuable contribution to the Hebrew-speaking audience's ability to access and enjoy academic studies that focus on gender and women's studies. One could say that over the past five years in Israel, we are witness to a phenomenon that occurred in the American academy a few years earlier. In the early 1990s, only a few English-language anthologies about gender and Jewish studies had appeared, such as Feminist Perspectives on Jewish Studies, edited by Lynn Davidson and Shelley Tenenbaum, and Judith Baskin's Jewish Women in Historical Perspective. (2) Today, many collections and several important monographs are available. In Hebrew, until recently, the only such collection of academic studies was Yael Azmon's A View into the Lives of Women in Jewish Societies. (3) Because of the special merit of Levine Melammed's book in filling this gap, my review will focus on the picture it provides as one of the first available Hebrew anthologies on the meeting of gender and women's studies with Jewish studies.
In the context of academic Hebrew writings on women's studies and Jewish studies, Levine Melammed's book is unique in its wide range of subjects, including such fields as literature and pedagogy, which do not appear in Azmon's volume. It is the first book in Hebrew to portray both current academic research and the challenges faced by those who work in the field. However, echoing the book's membership in a genre that is well developed elsewhere, the editor feels no need to follow Azmon in introducing her book with a long and detailed analysis of women's status in Judaism (which was then subject to much criticism). Levine Melammed assumes that her readers are well aware of the importance of her subject, and her introduction contains only an outline of the different sections, along with a comment:
In their articles, these scholars struggle with the variety of problems and issues that arise from the connection between women's studies and Jewish studies. At times, the problem has to do with the source material or with the absence of a woman's voice; in other instances the problems concern the absence of a feminist reading or of appropriate methodologies; and at times the problems are the result of lacunae in Jewish history. (p. 11)
This is borne out in the articles …