She Opens her Mouth with Wisdom

purimwomen1Purim is quickly approaching. Kids love the holiday as they can be as loud as they want in the sometimes too rigid atmosphere of the synagogue.

Adults love the holiday, too. They can be as silly as they want and who doesn’t like a good party?

However, underneath this levity is a serious story of courage and creative thinking.

I remember learning about cultural relativism in my college Sociology 101 course. Cultural relativism basically says that a culture should be judged by its own standards, not the standards of another time and place. We tend to ignore this and see what we want to see in other cultures.

When it comes to the Bible, we often see anomalies like Vashti’s defiance or the daughters of Zelophehad, who were allowed to inherit their father’s property, as beacons of equality in a sea of patriarchy.

Likewise, we stretch the Purim story to fit the times. Today it is often read as a tale of feminine strength. There’s Vashti who defies her husband, the king. There’s Esther who keeps her wits about her and devises a plan to trap the evil Haman. There’s even Zeresh, Haman’s wife, who might be the brains-or at least the ambition-behind her husband.

However one reads the women’s take on the story, it’s no secret that women have often played strong-usually behind the scene-roles in Jewish life from Biblical times onward, as well as in the larger world around them.

Read about some of them in these books on display and ready to borrow from the library:

Brooks, The Woman who defied Kings: the life and times of Dona Gracia Nasi, a  Jewish leader during the Renaissance

purim women2Calof, Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish homesteader on the Northern Plains

Cohe, Lilith’s Ark: teenage tales of Biblical women. Midrashim about the teen years of 10 women in Genesis that will resonate with today’s readers.

De Hart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a life. The first full biography of the esteemed justice of the Supreme Court.

Felde, Fifty Jewish Women who Changed the World. Detailed profiles of fifty Jewish women who have played a key role in world history,

Hammer, Sisters at Sinai: new tales of Biblical women. Anthology of 24 women in the Bible, drawn  from the tradition of midrash.

purimwomen3Gruber, Raquela: a woman of Israel. A look early Israel statehood, experienced through the life of a pioneering nurse.

Klagsbr, Lionesss: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel. The definitive biography of this extraordinary woman.

Kogan, With Strength and Splendor:Jewish women as agents of change

Krull, Judy Blume. A biography of the author whose honesty  and realism have made her the target of censorship.

purimwomen4Lehrer,  If We Could Hear Them Now: encounters with legendary Jewish heroines. Imaginary in interviews illustrate the qualities that can be learned from these women.

Ross, Daughters of Eve: strong women of the Bible. Inspirational tales women of the Bible who stood up for their beliefs and emerged triumphant.

Sasso, Regina Persisted: an untold story. The dramatic story of Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi.

purimwomen5Winter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the case of R.B.G. vs inequality. Presents Ginsburg’s life in the framework of a court case.

Wray, Good Girls, Bad Girls: the enduring lessons of twelve women of the Old Testament. Interprets the stories behind these women and applies them to our current day.

Yolen, Meet Me at the Well: the girls and women of the Bible. Modern, feminist take on stories of  girls and women in the Bible.

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