Synopses & Reviews
The first comprehensive study of the religious lives of central and eastern European Jewish women
Most studies of Judaism focus on sources produced by and for learned menthe Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the Midrash, legal codes, and works of medieval philosophy, mysticism, and Hasidism. All these texts were written in Hebrewa language seventeenth- through nineteenth-century Jewish women were not given the opportunity to learn. With Voices of the Matriarchs, Chava Weissler restores balance to our knowledge of Judaism by providing the first look at non-Hebrew Jewish source materials: the vernacular women's devotional prayers called tkhines. In Weissler's hands, these Yiddish prayers open a window into early modern Ashkenazic (European) women's lives, beliefs, devotion, and relationships with God.
Weissler examines the influence of these vernacular prayers on the construction of gender in Ashkenazic Judaism, investigates the writings of the remarkable female tkhine authors Leah Horowitz and Sarah bas Tovim and their interpretations of the religious lives of women, and traces the extent to which Ashkenazic women participated in the popularization of abstruse mystical teachings that became the basis for mass religious movements. Finally, she analyzes the changes the tkhines underwent in the New World, finding an "Americanization" of the prayers that reflects the radically different cultural expectations middle and eastern European Jews encountered there.
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for 1998
With Voices of the Matriarchs, Chava Weissler restores balance to our knowledge of Judaism by providing the first look at the Yiddish prayers women created during centuries of exclusion from men's observance. In Weissler's hands, these prayers (called thkines) open a new window into early modern European Jewish women's lives, beliefs, devotion, and relationships with God.
About the Author
Chava Weissler is professor of religion studies at Lehigh University, where she holds the Philip and Muriel Berman Chair of Jewish Civilization.