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Gender and Sexuality in Text
Rachel Adler, Aryeh Cohen & Wendy Zierler

November 2003


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Learn about the Scholars
What role does gender play in Jewish text? What are some of its underlying notions relating to sexuality? In this course, each scholar will investigate how the experiences of individual characters in Jewish literature provide insight into the sexualized aspects of knowledge. In the first session, Wendy Zierler will address the intersection of feminist interpretations of the bible and feminist interpretations of modern literature as they relate to the story of Eve. Aryeh Cohen will look at Beruriah as a literary figure in the Talmud: what does ma'aseh Beruriah really mean? And finally, Rachel Adler will review halakhic and aggadic material concerning the heterosexual imagery of Torah study and the homosocial environment of the Beit Midrash: what happens when women enter this arena?



This mini-course includes three, 1-hour phone presentations, which were recorded in November 2003. Each session is accompanied by a set of materials. The sessions are as follows:

Session Presenter and Title


Wendy Zierler

Recreating Eve: Feminist Perspectives


Aryeh Cohen

What Bruryah taught the Rabbis


Rachel Adler

Beauty and the Beast: Constructions of Masculinity
in Rabbinic Culture

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Scholars' Bios

Dr. Adler is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender at the School of Religion, University of Southern California and the Rabbinical School at the Los Angeles campus, the first joint appointment between these two institutions. Dr. Adler was one of the first theologians to integrate feminist perspectives and concerns into the interpretation of Jewish texts and the renewal of Jewish law and ethics. She is the author of many articles that have appeared in Blackwell's Companion to Feminist Philosophy, Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, Lifecycles, The Jewish Condition, and On Being a Jewish Feminist.


Aryeh Cohen is Chair of Rabbinic Studies and Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the University of Judaism. He has taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Brandeis University. Dr. Cohen is the author of Rereading Talmud: Gender, Law and the Poetics of Sugyot (Scholars Press, 1998), co-editor of Beginning/Again: Towards a Hermeneutics of Jewish Texts (Seven Bridges Press, 2001). He is a board member of the Society for Textual Reasoning, Sh’ma and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. Dr. Cohen lectures widely on Rabbinics, on politics and on the contemporary Jewish scene. His writing on these topics and others has been published in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, The Association of Jewish Studies Review, Sh’ma, Tikkun, Textual Reasoning, The Reconstructionist, Kerem, The Jewish Spectator, Hebrew Union College Annual and elsewhere.


Dr. Zierler is the Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies and Modern Jewish Literature. Prior to joining HUC-JIR she was a Research Fellow in the English Department of Hong Kong University where she lived for five and a half years while teaching at the University.

Dr. Zierler received her Ph.D. and her MA from Princeton University, and her BA from Yeshiva University, Stern College. She also studied at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Michelelet Bruria in Jerusalem. Dr. Zierler is currently working towards an MFA in Fiction Writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Her book, And Rachel Stole the Idols: The Emergence of Hebrew Women's Writing, is forthcoming from Wayne State University Press. At HUC-JIR she teaches courses on American Jewish Literature, Popular Culture and Theology, Modern Hebrew Literature, Holocaust Literature, The Jew and the Other, as well in addition to courses dealing with Gender and Judaism.

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