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“Blessed is She Who in the Beginning Gave Birth:” An Intellectual History of the Brown Women’s Minyan and the Student Pioneers of American Jewish Feminism

Description

Abstract:
This thesis explores the intellectual history of Jewish feminist prayer over the last third of the twentieth century through the lens of the Brown Women’s Minyan, a feminist prayer community that was part of Brown Hillel from 1973 to 1978. The Women’s Minyan provided one of the first spaces in which Jewish women could coherently express their Judaism and their feminism simultaneously, and in this way anticipated the Third Wave feminist turn toward intersectionality. In addition, Naomi Janowitz ’77 and Margaret Moers Wenig ’78 wrote an original feminist prayerbook for the Women’s Minyan entitled Siddur Nashim (literally “Women’s Prayerbook”) in a group independent study with Professor David Blumenthal from 1974 to 1976. In this prayerbook, God is gendered almost exclusively feminine, and there abounds a variety of feminine language and imagery to describe the Divine. Though this document has been almost completely forgotten in Jewish communities inside and outside of Brown, it was a foundational text in the intellectual history of the progressive Jewish liturgies and Jewish feminist theologies of the 1980s and 1990s. The writers who built on the work Janowitz and Wenig undertook at Brown in the 1970s were instrumental in shaping the ideas and images of God that are presented to a plurality of American Jews. A trail of “gender-sensitive” Jewish liturgies radiated from the Brown Hillel building to synagogues around North America, and this thesis traces that transformation and details the Brown Women’s Minyan’s role in shaping American Jewish history.
Notes:
Senior thesis (AB)--Brown University, 2018
Concentration: History

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All rights reserved. Collection is open for research.

Citation

Lotenberg, Sienna, "“Blessed is She Who in the Beginning Gave Birth:” An Intellectual History of the Brown Women’s Minyan and the Student Pioneers of American Jewish Feminism" (2018). History Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.26300/awp6-w965

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