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While Rabbinic sources have led scholars to believe that Jewish women led restricted, secluded lives and were excluded from much of the rich ritual life of Jewish men, especially from the study of Torah, striking evidence from the Greco-Roman Diaspora suggests that at least some Jewish women played active religious, social, economic, and even political roles in the public lives of Jewish communities. Studying the role of women in the synagogues of antiquity, in light of textual, inscriptional, and archaeological evidence, not only broadens and deepens our understanding of Jewish women’s history and religion, but provides insight into the place of Jewish women in the modern synagogue, a subject of major debate among all branches of Judaism.
Salome Alexandra, from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarium Iconum Insigniorum.
The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years by Lee I. Levine
See: "Women in the Synagogue," pp. 499-518.
A history of the synagogue from the Hellenistic period to the end of late antiquity. It traces its development from a communal institution to one which had a distinctively religious profile, describing its basic features, the roles of its rabbis and priests, its liturgy, and its art.
Daughters of the King by Susan Grossman (Editor); Rivka Haut (Editor)
Daughters of the King explains women's involvement in and around the synagogue from its antecedents in the biblical period to contemporary times. The role of women in the synagogue is a most timely but potentially divisive issue. Grossman and Haut have demonstrated the historical diversity of women's roles in Judaism, to record first-person accounts of the innovative practices now being introduced for and by women throughout the Jewish community, and to consider how these new realities will help to shape the religious life of Jewish women in the future. The contributors represent an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, medieval studies, women's studies, Jewish law, the Bible, the Talmud, and rabbinic thought.
Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions Among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World by Ross Shepard Kraemer
See: "Jewish Women's Religious Lives in Rabbinic Sources," pp. 93-105 and "Jewish Women's Religious Lives and Offices in the Greco-Roman Diaspora," pp. 106-127.
In this pathbreaking volume, Ross Shepard Kraemer provides the first comprehensive look at women's religions in Greco-Roman antiquity. She vividly recreates the religious lives of early Christian, Jewish, and pagan women, with many fascinating examples: Greek women's devotion to goddesses, rites of Roman matrons, Jewish women in rabbinic and diaspora communities, Christian women's struggles to exercise authority and autonomy, and women's roles as leaders in the full spectrum of Greco-Roman religions.
From Dura to Sepphoris: Studies in Jewish Art and Society in Late Antiquity by Lee I. Levine (Editor); Zeev Weiss (Editor)
See: Sharon Lea Mattila, "Where Women Sat in Ancient Synagogues: The archaeological evidence in context," pp. 266-286.
Based upon a series of detailed case studies of associations such as early synagogues and churches, philosophical schools and pagan mystery cults, this collection addresses the question of what can legitimately be termed a 'voluntary association.' Employing modern sociological concepts, the essays show how the various associations were constituted, the extent of their membership, why people joined them and what they contributed to the social fabric of urban life.