Jewish feminist scholarship is flourishing, now more than ever before. Here’s a sampling of the innovative work being done right now by early-career academics:
• Deborah Grenn, founder of The Lilith Institute and adjunct faculty member at the Women’s Spirituality masters program at New College of California, is completing “For She Is A Tree of Life: Locating Women’s Spiritual Power—Bat Mitzvah to Khomba, Mt. Sinai to Modimolle.” Her project looks at spiritual/cultural identities and ritual practices among women of the Lemba tribe (Diasporic Jews living in Southern Africa), and Jewish women of diverse traditions living in the U.S.
• At Brown University, Keren R. McGinity is writing a dissertation entitled “Tying the Knots: Jewish Women, Intermarriage, and Gender in America.” She is analyzing how Jewish women’s lives changed over the twentieth century according to their marriage choices, and how intermarried women transformed what it meant to be a “Jewish woman” in America.
• Sandra Collins, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, selects biblical stories about women who act alone in sexually provocative ways (Lot’s daughters, Tamar in Genesis 38, Bathsheba and Ruth). She proposes that these women, appearing within patriarchal narratives, give us new understanding of women’s heroism; they use sex and individual enterprise to achieve their ends. Collins titled a presentation of her work at a recent meeting of the. Association for Jewish Studies “When Father Doesn’t Know Best.”
• Yum! At George Washington University, Marcie Cohen Ferris examines how food defined daily life for southern Jews. Her Ph. D. dissertation is entitled “Matzoh Ball Gumbo, Gasper Goo Gefilte Fish, and Big Momma’s Kreplach: Exploring Southern Jewish Foodways,”
• Kirsten Fermaglich, Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University, is working on “Perpetrators, Bystanders, Victims: Jewish Intellectuals and Images of the Holocaust in Postwar America.” This project looks at a cohort of American-Jewish writers—including feminist activist Betty Friedan—who introduced Holocaust imagery into mainstream American political culture in the early 1960s.
• Tracy Sivitz, a graduate student at Yale, is researching the development of political consciousness among second-generation Jewish women in the United States in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. She wants to find out more about how the activism of these Eastern European immigrant daughters in Jewish women’s and communal organizations related to their broader participation in American political life.
• Melissa Klapper’s Ph.D. thesis at Rutgers focused on the dual influences of religion and education on adolescent Jewish girls in America between 1860 and 1920, leading them to be both agents of acculturation and guardians of tradition.
• Josh Perelman, a doctoral student at New York University, is writing a dissertation on the lives and creations of Jewish modern dancers such as Sophie Maslow, Anna Sokolow, and Edith Segal. Perelman charts how their performances both influenced and reflected American Jewish identity from 1924-1964.