Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Evidence of female leadership in ancient shuls?

Facebook may be a place where bored housewives waste time, but this morning the famous Rabbi Josh Yuter injected some scholarship by posting a monograph that claims women held leadership roles in ancient synagogues.

You'll want to read it, I'm sure, but just in case you're lazy here are some take away points:
  • Headstones, "donative inscriptions", and other artifacts have been found in which women are identified as "head of the synagogue", "leader", "mother of the synagogue", and "elder."
  • Ancient synagogues show no clear evidence that women were seated in their own sections. 
Now, naturally there are all sorts of apologetic ways to explain (away) these discoveries. For example:
  • Titles are nice,but they don't suggest that women had meaningful roles.
  • The inscriptions are all Greek or Latin, which is proof that these female leaders were not real Jews.
  • So there were reformers in the ancient world, too? Nowadays they sit together, too.
  • Obvious fabrications! We all know women functioned entirely as footstools for their husbands until that nasty Betty Friedan invented feminism. 
Chaim Bray: you are welcome.

Not being any sort of expert, I won't comment further.

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