Rachel EliorSep 29, 2023
The Unknown History of Jewish Women Through the Ages
On Learning and Illiteracy, On Slavery and Liberty
de Gruyter 2023
Rachel Elior's book The Unknown History of Jewish Women: On Learning and Illiteracy, On Slavery and Liberty (de Gruyter, 2023) is a comprehensive study on the history of Jewish women, which discusses their absence from the Jewish Hebrew library of the "People of the Book" and interprets their social condition in relation to their imposed ignorance and exclusion from public literacy.
The book begins with a chapter on communal education for Jewish boys, which was compulsory and free of charge for the first ten years in all traditional Jewish communities. The discussion continues with the striking absence of any communal Jewish education for girls until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the implications of this fact for twentieth-century immigration to Israel (1949-1959). The following chapters discuss the social, cultural and legal contexts of this reality of female illiteracy in the Jewish community-a community that placed a supreme value on male education. The discussion focuses on the patriarchal order and the postulations, rules, norms, sanctions and mythologies that, in antiquity and the Middle Ages, laid the religious foundations of this discriminatory reality.