Klutznick-Harris 14 Symposium Abstracts

List of Contributors

Henry Abramson,  "A Derivative Hatred: Jewish Women in Modern Antisemitic Caricature"
Brenda E. Brasher, "Gender & Religious Aggression in the Middle East: Case Study of the Western Wall"
Susan A. Brayford, "The Domestication of Sarah"
S. Daniel Breslauer, "Negotiating Gender Roles: Three Stories from Peretz, Agnon, and Buber"
Dan W. Clanton, Jr., "Judy in Disguise: D. W. Griffith's Judith of Bethulia"
Sidnie White Crawford, "Portraits of Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls"
Esther Fuchs, "Jewish Feminist Scholarship: Between a Rock and a Hard Place"
Karla Goldman, "Women and American Reform Judaism: Rhetoric and Reality"
Jayne K. Guberman, "Hidden Stories/Living Memories: Women's Narratives in American Jewish History"
Charles David Isbell, "Nice Jewish Girls, Liquor, Sex, and Power in Antiquity"
Chana R. Kotzin, "The Adult Bat Mitzvah Phenomenon in America, 1950-2000"
Marjorie Lehman, "The Impact of Domesticity on Rabbinic Decisions about Women in Festival Rituals"
Reina Reiner-Rutlinger, "'Royal Princesses on Stage': Theatrical Activity Amongst Religious Israeli Women"
Gail Twersky Reimer, "Women of Valor: Posters and Changing Representations"

A Derivative Hatred: Representations of Jewish Women in Modern Antisemitic Caricature

Henry Abramson, Florida Atlantic University

Historically, Jewish women figured prominently in anti-Judaic art of the medieval period, particularly as symbolic representations of the Synagogue in Church art. Towards the early modern period, Jewish women were increasingly displaced from their central position in antisemitic iconography, appearing only in the background in most representations of the Blood Libel and the infamous Judensau. Modern antisemitic caricature, by contrast, rarely includes any depictions of Jewish women, and in a remarkably limited number of thematic poses. This paper discusses the characterization of Jewish women in antisemitic caricature since the Enlightenment and discuss some theories for the gender reification of modern representations.

My argument is be richly illustrated with images, displayed via PowerPoint presentation software. The sources include original nineteenth century antisemitica, twentieth century studies of Jews in caricature, and contemporary Internet hate sites. This paper is part of a larger research project that will produce a monograph studying representations of Jewish women in art and caricature.

List of Contributors

Gender and Religious Aggression in the Middle East: Case Study of the Western Wall

Brenda E. Brasher, Mount Union College

Land is a principal causal factor of human violence; in the subset of religious violence the land most often fought over is that associated with holy sites. Politically intractable, holy sites are places where area social tension regularly escalates into violence, at times acerbated by global factors. Typically this tension is portrayed as arising between religious men whose antagonisms are the product of a polarization reinforced by widespread stereotypes. The stark dualism that divides those enmeshed in religious conflict makes any irenic resolution of such conflict difficult to conceive.

This paper questions the validity of this characterization by looking at Middle Eastern religious violence in a new way. At its center is women=s participation in conflicts at the Western Wall. Through bringing women=s involvement in holy site conflicts at the Western Wall solidly into view, the paper advances a more nuanced, heterodox, and comprehensive portrait of the recurrent religious violence in the Middle East. While I concentrate on the participation of Jewish women in conflicts at the Western Wall, major contributions of Muslim and Christian women to site conflicts are also taken into account. The goal of this paper is to shed light on how women are like or unlike men when involved in holy site conflicts, how extensive women=s involvement is in Western Wall conflicts, what moral reasoning Jewish women employ when they speak about such conflicts, and the extent to which gender is an influential factor throughout.

This paper was developed from a research project using a mixed-methods approach and employing grounded theory principles to develop a detailed portrait of Jewish women=s participation in religious aggression and violence at the Western Wall. I combine this information with extensive archival research to assess the significance of gender in overall participation in religious aggression or violence, in the kinds of aggressive or violent actions undertaken, and in the number or type of incidents occurring at the Western Wall.

List of Contributors

The Domestication of Sarah: From Jewish Matriarch to Hellenistic Matron

Susan A. Brayford, Centenary College

Sarah begins her biblical life as the outspoken woman who is YHWH's choice to be the "first mother of the Jews." Although the introductory remarks about Sarah concern her barrenness, the first words she speaks in the biblical story show her inventiveness in overcoming what seems to be an obstacle to fulfilling YHWH's promises to her husband Abraham. From that point in the story (Gen 11:30) until the narration of her death and burial (Gen 23), Sarah is portrayed as a strong and determined woman who stops at virtually nothing to ensure the continuation of her family and the covenant. However, in her literary afterlife, Sarah is transformed from a courageous and active Jewish matriarch into an obedient and passive Hellenistic matron, who "obeys Abraham and calls him lord" (1 Pet 3:6).

I examine the ways in which Sarah is portrayed by biblical and extrabiblical writers and suggest the texts and contexts that led to Sarah's domestication. Specifically, I begin my discussion with an analysis of her representation in the book of Genesis so as to establish the basic features of Sarah's character. I then compare this portrait of Sarah to others that emerge in later literary texts and translations, including the Septuagint and other Greek translations, the Targumim, the so-called "rewritten Bibles" (Jubilees, Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities, and Josephus's Jewish Antiquities), Philonic texts, and the Christian scriptures. As a result, I show how texts influenced by Hellenistic values tended to transform Sarah into their ideal woman by downgrading her sexuality and emphasizing her modesty and obedience.

I  provide copies of the more significant texts in which Sarah appears and work with the audience to create literaryCand perhaps visualCportraits of the various Sarahs that emerge from the retellings of her story. By making careful connections between the worlds in the text and the possible worlds behind the text, I argue that Sarah fared much better in Jewish texts produced in Palestine than in any text produced in the diaspora. My goal is to challenge the assumption that Christianity "rescued" women from the oppressiveness of their Jewish environments.

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Negotiating Gender Roles: Three Stories from Peretz, Agnon, & Buber

S. Daniel Breslauer, University of Kansas-Lawrence

The relationship between husbands and wives among the Jews of Eastern Europe was often stressful. The gamut of portraits runs from the ideal wife to the shrew. Three stories show different ways in which these relationships can be negotiated, as in the portrait of the ideal marriage in I. L. Peretz's Shalom Bayis, the effect of Torah learning on marriage in S. Y. Agnon's Maaseh Azriel Moshe Shomer Hasfarim, and the problematic marriage of the Yehudi and his second wife Schoendel in Martin Buber=s For the Sake of Heaven: A Chronicle. Each of these narratives exploits the dynamic elements of gender relationship to suggest ways Jews can cope with the challenges of life.

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Judy in Disguise: D. W. Griffith's Judith of Bethulia

Dan W. Clanton, Jr., Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver

The apocryphal story of Judith has been one of the most reinterpreted and retold tales in all of biblical literature. Several works have appeared that analyze many of these interpretations; yet strangely, almost no work has been done on one of the most notable retellings of this narrative, D. W. Griffith=s 1913 film, Judith of Bethulia. This film, partially based on Thomas Aldrich=s play, is significant not only because of the unique place it occupies in Griffith=s cinematic output, but also because of its transformation of the story of Judith.

This paper examines the film, both in the context of Griffith=s cinematic output and as an aesthetic interpretation of the Judith story. I argue first that the film foreshadows much of Griffith=s later work, including his masterpieces Intolerance and The Birth of a Nation. Second, I investigate the way in which Griffith, following Aldrich, alters the story of Judith in an attempt to add emotional and psychological depth, an attempt that ultimately fails in my opinion. My intention is to illuminate the way in which this retelling, like all significant interpretations, allows us to reencounter the original narrative with new questions and perceptions.

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Portraits of Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

For the first generation of scholarship on the scrolls found in the caves surrounding the site of Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea, combining the words "women" and "Qumran" would have seemed like an oxymoron. The inhabitants of the site of Qumran and the owners of the Scrolls were identified with the sectarian Essenes described by Josephus, Philo, and Pliny. According to all three of these ancient writers, the Essenes were an all-male, celibate group within Judaism. Once that identification of the Scrolls and the Essenes was made, all evidence for the presence of women in the Scrolls was overlooked. However, in the last ten years a reevaluation of that position has taken place. The Dead Sea Scrolls do contain material about women, both in legal and literary texts. How those texts portray women, and what they add to our knowledge of women in the Second Temple period, have become legitimate questions for scholarly inquiry.

In this paper I propose to investigate the portrayal of women in the non-legal texts from Qumran. These texts include the Genesis Apocryphon, which features Bitenosh, the wife of Lamech and mother of Noah, and Sarai, the wife of Abram; 4QReworked Pentateuch, which contains new material concerning Rebekkah, the wife of Isaac, and Miriam, the sister of Moses; and the new Wisdom texts from Qumran, which discuss among other things the proper conduct of women toward their husbands and fathers. I compare these texts with previously known works of the Second Temple period, including the book of Esther, Jubilees, Tobit, and the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira.

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Jewish Feminist Scholarship: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Esther Fuchs, University of Arizona

This paper raises critical questions about current trends in Jewish feminist scholarship. Surveying major publications in the field, it addresses two factors that are commonly raised by scholars as serious obstacles to growth and development. On one hand, scholars complain about the resistance of traditional Jewish Studies disciplines to feminist theories and methodologies. On the other hand, there is a resistance to Jewish scholarship within women=s studies and feminist studies programs. The paper discusses the unique struggle of Jewish feminist studies for recognition and speculates that these factors, as well as the recent influx of male-authored feminism into the field, may explain the relative lack of theoretical dialogue between and among Jewish feminist scholars about the possibility of creating a context or a consensual articulation of overarching goals and models for revision across disciplinary boundaries. Among the major publications I discuss here is the exceptional case of Judaism Since Gender, edited by Miriam Peskowitz and Laura Levitt (Routledge, 1997).

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Women and American Reform Judaism: Rhetoric and Reality

Karla Goldman, Jewish Women=s Archive

Leaders of Reform Judaism in the United States have often celebrated their movement=s role in emancipating women from the many restrictions that Judaism has traditionally imposed upon women=s ability to participate in and lead public worship. Distinctive innovations that have defined American Judaism, such as the introduction of family pews and the first seminary ordination of a woman rabbi, have characterized Reform Judaism=s progressive leadership on the American scene. In many ways, however, the rhetoric of equality articulated by Reform leaders has not been matched by real equality. Like most expressions of American Judaism, Reform Judaism has struggled with the challenge of adapting the gender divisions of traditional Jewish law and practice to the gender expectations implicit in middle-class American society and middle-class American religious life in particular.

This presentation examines a number of instances in which Reform=s commitment to women=s equality fell short in practice. It follows Reform=s consistent commitment to showing leadership on issues of gender equality together with the difficulty of matching this commitment to action. Leaders of the mid-nineteenth-century American Reform movement called for women=s equality, and American synagogues abolished the separation between men and women at worship, but these affirmations did little to redefine women=s religious or institutional roles. For many years, Reform Jewish women dominated synagogue attendance, but the contributed little to the life of the synagogue. Even after women became central to sustaining congregational life, Reform institutions resisted the efforts of those who sought a commitment to women in leadership roles. Once women were allowed to become rabbis by the Reform establishment, it took some time for the movement to realize that allowing women into Jewish spiritual leadership meant more than simply allowing women to do what men had always done.

Finally, I address the difficulty faced by a mainstream American Jewish movement in creating institutions and practices that truly value and reflect gender equality. At the same time, I demonstrate how American Reform Judaism, and by extension Judaism in general, has been shaped by the process of development, as reality catches up with rhetoric and allows women to find an evolving place within American Judaism.

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Hidden Stories/Living Memories: Women's Narratives as a Lens on American Jewish History

Jayne K. Guberman, Jewish Women=s Archive

In less than four generations, American Jewish women have dramatically expanded their participation in and influence on all aspects of the cultural, intellectual, political, religious, and communal life of American Jewry and of American society at large. Yet the women who witnessed and brought about these changes are mostly invisible in the narratives of the institutions they founded, the synagogues and Jewish organizations they supported, and the communities they sustained. Only in the past twenty-five years, influenced by feminist theory and new perspectives from social history, has a younger generation of historians begun to enlarge the definition of the historically significant to focus on the experiences and perspectives of Aordinary@ Jewish women.

In most instances, however, few archival resources exist to support their work. At the same time, oral history has become an increasingly important tool for generating new kinds of historical and literary materials on Jewish women. Over the past several decades, numerous organizations and institutionsCfrom the American Jewish Committee and Hadasseh to historical societies and Jewish museums across the countryChave undertaken oral history projects. Yet the majority of these oral histories remain tucked away in boxes, inaccessible to researchers and the general public. More importantly, with their emphasis on community and organizational history, most do not address women=s experiences and contributions from the perspective of gender.

Recognizing the urgency of gathering the living memories of twentieth century American Jewish women, the Jewish Women=s Archives recently launched Weaving Women=s Words. This national initiative, designed to address the gaps in our knowledge about the diverse experiences and contributions of American Jewish women, uses oral history as a primary tool for examining the lives of Jewish women aged 75 and older. Currently underway in Baltimore and Seattle (with plans for beginning in Omaha in the fall), Weaving Women=s Words will collect nearly 100 interviews conducted by experienced oral historians in the coming months.

This presentation examines the oral histories of two women, one each from Baltimore and Seattle, to reflect on the nature of Jewish women=s multiple identities as women, Jews, and Americans. Using excerpts from these two women=s narratives as an entry, the paper develops ten overarching frameworksCranging from family, education, and work to domestic religion, sexuality, health, and leisureCto explore the different ways that gender, class, place, and religious and ethnic identity have shaped women=s lives and their contributions to their families, their communities, and the larger society.

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Nice Jewish Girls, Liquor, Sex, and Power in Antiquity

Charles David Isbell, Louisiana State University

The biblical view of "wine" or "liquor" is mixed. While there is acknowledgment of the benefits of drinking in moderation (Ps 104:15: "Wine gladdens a person's heart."), there is also open awareness of the evils of drinking to excess. In the modern idiom, the mixing of liquor in a context of sex implies that a man is furnishing alcohol to a woman in hopes of seducing her. Yet in the biblical material, there is not a single instance of alcohol being used in this fashionCby a man!

However, four "nice Jewish girls" employ "wine" to enable them to achieve power in the male-dominant societies in which they must live. The daughters of Lot get their father drunk in order to seduce him into impregnating them, thus giving them status of the only kind recognized for a woman in their day. It is instructive that the biblical text (Gen 19:31-38) does not castigate either daughter for this action! In the book of Ruth, Ruth is advised by her savvy mother-in-law to make sure that Boaz has drunk an adequate amount; in fact, Ruth 3:7 specifies that the heart of Boaz was "merry" after having eaten and drunk, before Ruth made her move to sexual familiarity that ensured both her social status and the future for Naomi and herself. Third, both of the banquets given by Esther employed wine to prepare the way for her requests. In the first, she pointedly waits to make her request until after the wine has been drunk (5:6); at the second banquet we are informed that "the king and Haman came to drink with Esther" (7:1), while the banquet itself is described as "a wine banquet" (7:2). And finally, in the deutero-canonical book of Judith, the evil Holofernes intends to seduce the heroine of the story, but she allows him to drink to excess and then cuts off his head.

All of these stories are revealing. Each is set within a cultural milieu that routinely places females in a position of importance secondary to males, with the accompanying assumption, unspoken but no less real, that "girls" could not possibly be as clever or as powerful as "boys." Each accepts both sex and alcohol as tools used by a woman to obtain either necessary social status or personal or national safety for herself or her entire people. In none of the stories is the heroine criticized or demeaned for her use of alcohol or sexual wiles en route to the accomplishment of her aims. In fact, alcohol and sex together are seen as acceptable means for a woman to achieve power over a man, power that the narrators in each case wish to have placed under the control of a wise woman rather than an evil or hapless man, power that the stories also teach that each woman used appropriately.

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The Adult Bat Mitzvah Phenomenon in America, 1950-2000

Chana R. Kotzin, Baltimore, Maryland

As a separate and distinct ritual from its child coming of age celebration, the adult bat mitzvah has been the subject of a growing number of sociological, psychological, and educational studies, focusing on the meaning participants have invested in these rituals and the specific training involved for such ceremonies. These works have been usefully supplemented with pieces written by adult bnot mitzvah themselves, giving their perspective on their own participation in such celebrations. As a result of recent ubiquitous practice, adult bat mitzvah has become commonly regarded by many as a contemporary or recent phenomenon. Historically, however, this Anew Jewish woman=s ritual@ has over forty years of precedent. Moreover, it was a ritual form which was firmly established in the post Second World War era at a time when the child bat mitzvah was still struggling for acceptance and utilization as a “parallel” celebration to the bar mitzvah for boys.

Thus, while the three main movements in Judaism grappled with incorporating the child bat mitzvah ceremony for differing and often movement specific reasons, many adult women within each strand were finding ways to realize their desire for increased participation in synagogue and ritual life, both publicly in the sanctuary and more privately in women-only prayer and study groups. Against the backdrop of gradualist innovations for girls, adult female ceremonies in varying forms were developing on an independent and arguably “faster” track. Nor was the adult celebration a replica of child rituals despite utilizing elements from child bat and bar mitzvah ceremonies. Such adult bnot mitzvah celebrations also drew on child confirmation rituals deriving from the Reform movement and teamed this with innovative additions that drew inspiration from the nascent Jewish feminist movement. In this way, adult women interpreted this child rite of passage as a significant adult ritual that met the particular needs of themselves as individual women and more often as women within specific religious groupings.Employing synagogue records and private recollections relating to adult bnot mitzvah using Baltimore, Maryland as a resource, my paper will contextualize how this ritual has developed within modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements as well as across each of these streams over time. A booklet illustrating the variety of ceremonies that have been created will be available for distribution and will be accessible to both lay and academic audiences.         

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The Impact of Domesticity on Rabbinic Decisions to Require and Exempt Women from Festival Rituals

Marjorie Lehman, Jewish Theological Seminary

Scholarly discussion in the field of Talmud and Rabbinics regarding the treatment of women with respect to ritual law generally begins with an acknowledgment of the existence of a tannaitic legal dictum exempting women from all (positive) ritual commandments dependent upon time (Mitzvot aseh shehazeman geramah). It is most interesting that this exemption was not universally accepted during any portion of the Talmudic period. Tannaitic sources (the Mishnah, the toseftan beraitot, the non-toseftan beraitot), as well as sources that postdate the closure of the Mishnah, highlight the fact that there was no consensus on the subject of the requirement of women in the category of festival law. It is more remarkable that the final redactors of the Babylonian Talmud (the stammaim) made no attempt to synthesize halakhic opinion on the subject of women and ritual law; the tannaitic exemption did not govern all later halakhic determinations regarding women and ritual observance.

The purpose of this paper is to explore why the tannaitic legal dictum regarding the exemption of women from ritual law to failed to gain universal Talmudic acceptance, most especially on the part of the final redactors, the stammaim. The treatment of the two parallel pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Sukkot, as discussed in the Babylonian tractates Pesachim and Sukkah, are be used to highlight the lack of consensus on the issue of whether women should be exempted from certain rituals. I then address the underlying motivations for the tannaitic dictum,  exploring the sociological forces that influence various halakhic developments regarding women, especially in their domestic role, and the impact those forces had on the halakhic decisions made by the stammaim.

I also show that feminist scholars can make important contributions to the field of Talmudic scholarship in general by using the tools of critical Talmudic scholarship. I conclude that important assessments can be made regarding the overall methodology of the stammaitic redactors when the sugyot that mention women are examined in their entirety, with special attention paid not only to the tannaitic and amoraic source material used in the construction of each sugya, but most especially to the manner in which the stammaim interface with this earlier material. It is my belief that a study of the legal treatment of women, such as this one, can enable scholars to achieve a better understanding of the manner in which the texts of the Babylonian Talmud came together.

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"Royal Princesses on Stage: Theatrical Activity Amongst Religious Israeli Women

Reina Reiner-Rutlinger, Jerusalem

My paper deals with the doctoral thesis I am writing in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Hebrew University, Jerusalem. The research records and analyzes the theatrical activities of religious women in Israel today, which take place throughout wide religious circles, haredi and national-religious alike.

Theatrical activity was considered in traditional circles to be an antithesis to the ideal of the modest Jewish woman or, as she is called in Ps 45:14 , “a royal princess” because it demands much more public exposure of the woman. Nevertheless, theater departments and groups are forming within ulpanas (Tora High schools) all over the country: in Jerusalem and its vicinity, Haifa, the Galilee, in Tiberias, Bnei Berak, and in settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gush Katif. Religious women's theatrical initiatives are part of a new cultural phenomena within the religious community in Israel and another aspect of the growing involvement of religious women in the cultural life of their communities. This trend exists already in fields of Talmudic study and in artistic fields such as literature, poetry, painting, and music. Religious women=s theatrical initiatives have caused the male rabbinic institutions to reconsider their traditional aversion towards theater. Women in theater groups turn to rabbis for advice in halachic and artistic questions, and so, despite many reservations, many rabbis have been “forced” to recognize theater as a legitimate, personal form of artistic religious expression. They are drawn into issues connected to the relationship between art and religion despite the fact that most of them have no artistic training or experience and some have never been to the theater. This new domain for halachic and moral questions, connected to religious belief in its profoundest and most intimate forms, may become yet another catalyst for the change taking place in the cultural climate of Israeli religious society.

Topics dealt with by these groups concern women, are written by women, and are meant to be performed (in most cases) in front of all-female audiences. They deal with biblical texts and figures (usually female), Midrash, passages from the Gemarra and hasidic stories. Some performances are intimate monologues dealing with personal or political issues. Yet most women reject affiliation with feminism. They consider the feminist movement foreign to Judaism, unlike other orthodox women who embrace feminism and see it as a “sign from heaven.” For the same reason, they are not interested in dealing with texts from the Western repertoire, since they believe in their own ability to create and produce original materials which will form the basis of an innovative and unique Jewish theater. Most actresses feel that their theatrical activity is a “holy activity” [avodat kodesh], an integral part of their religious worship. They feel that the theater itself is a space for self-expression of their religious outlook on life. The names they choose for their groups indicate the designation of their theater work and express their aspirations: “Theater of Essence,” directed by Amalia Shahal, and “The Jewish Point,” the theater group of Dina Shohet, are two examples.

In addition to the feminist influences that have brought religious women to theatrical work, we should examine the phenomena in a broader social context and vis-a-vis the dynamic social processes taking place in Israeli society in general. Theater has, until now, been identified with secular Israeli society, but its adoption by religious circles may lead to an intercultural relationship between Western secular artistic values and religious Judaic values and materials. This intercultural relationship between Western secular artists who represent artistic values and religious women dealing with Judaic materials is very complex, but may lead to a new cultural dialogue within Israeli society in general and within various trends in religious society (newly religious, born religious, Zionist religious, and ultra-orthodox).

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Women of Valor: Posters and Changing Representations of Jewish Women's History

Gail Twersky Reimer, Jewish Women=s Archive

Through an examination of two series of posters on Jewish womenCone produced by the American Jewish Archive in the 1980s the other in the 1990sCthis paper explores changing understandings of Jewish women=s history as reflected in production, content, design, and distribution. I begin by looking at the particular institutional contexts in which the posters were createdCwhere they fit within the broader spectrum of the institution=s mission, activities, and programs, and how and to whom responsibility for their production (from choosing the women, to choosing the designer, to choosing a market strategy) was assigned.

Particular attention is be paid to both internal and external pressures that may have motivated the creation of the posters to begin with and which very likely influenced their design. With each set of posters, I consider the stated purpose of the series and the degree to which the poster designs reflect and/or challenge conventional readings of Jewish women=s lives, the routine expectations of viewers, and the traditional uses of scholars and scholarship. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the catalytic function of Jewish Women=s Archive posters and the range of products (on-line exhibits, theatre productions, and curricula) and public programs they have generated.

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