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Friday, June 24, 2005

Heroine of the Day

One of the reasons I'm loving this feature so much is that I'm getting a chance to do some really fascinating research on women I've either never heard of before, of never though that much about. One thing I've realized is that there is no dearth of courageous Jewish women throughout history. The only trouble I'm having with this feature each time is choosing one. Anyway, without further ado, my Heroine of the Day.

Today we remember a great Torah scholar, Nechama Leibowitz. Russian born, she received a doctorate in Bible Studies from the University of Berlin before she made aliyah. She taught at the Mizrachi Women's Teachers' Seminar in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and Hesder yeshivot. Nechama Leibowitz is best known, though, for her weekly parsha "pages" (gilyonot in hebrew) of questions that she stenciled and mailed to tens of thousands of students from all different observance levels and affiliations all over the world, . These guides to the Torah helped students examine and interpret the text more closely and were eventually published as study guides for parshat hashavua (the weekly Torah portions). They also won her the Israel Prize in 1957 for revolutionizing Torah study. Nechama Leibowitz would lecture regularly to groups of women and men, but remained modest and unassuming, insisting that her students call her "Nechama". Indeed, she insisted that her gravestone read simply: Nechama Leibowitz, morah (teacher). She is roundly recognized as a female pioneer in the study of the Torah, a devoted and effective educator, and a true role model for generations of Jewish women.
Here are more resources on Nechama Leibowitz's life, and here are some of her writings and teachings.

40 Comments:

Anonymous shoshanna said...

I love her. Nehama was an Orthodox Jewish feminist before there were any. Learning what she has to say about the weekly portion is one of the highlights of my Shabbat.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

great choice. leaving her volumes on the shabbos table always draw a double take from guests.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She's awesome.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Dear Orthomom,

I love this feature of your blog - please continue!

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Rachel Ann said...

My Rabbi always caller her his Torah Rabbe...She was an amazing person.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

While I like what you wrote, I wouldn't call Nechama Lebowitz z"l a feminist. She was very much an individual and hardly saw herself as part of a movement.
I had the zechus of being in a class with her when I learned in Gruss. She would regularly say that she didn't know Gemora. Then she'd rattle off more Gemora's than we knew. When someone would point out that she knew quite a few Gemoras, she would reply that she only knew those that were related to Rashi. I think that she really knew quite a bit more than that. And I think with anyone else I'd consider such protestations false modesty; with her there was nothing false about it.

11:18 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Thanks, David. For the record, though, I didn't call her a feminist.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous shoshanna said...

That would be me. But I maintain my position.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't she banned? just like slifkin.

5:55 AM  
Blogger Batya said...

This post is included in the latest Hevel Hevalim!

http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2005/06/hevel-hevelim-26.html
http://me-ander.blogspot.com/2005/06/hevel-hevalim-26.html

12:19 AM  
Anonymous suleiman said...

"she received a doctorate in Bible Studies"
i think the doctrate was in literature and the dissertation was on bible. see the following:
'In 1919 she began studying German language and literature at Berlin University, culminating in a doctorate in 1930 in Techniques of Judeo-German Bible Translation in the 15th and 16th centuries as exemplified by Translations of the Book of Psalms.'

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Blogger orthomom said...

Thank you. I will research and correct, if necessary.

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Anonymous Andy said...

Very nice article and thank you so much for linking your article to our web site.

The following link shows more material than the one you used.

http://www.israelbooks.com/bookList.asp?catId=46

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most readers do not know that the Mizrachi Teachers Seminary is better known as MACHON GOLD.
She was my teacher for chumash, when I studied in Machon Gold. She was/is a role model & was a mentor to many. She would not be aware of what is meant by "first feminist". she thought of herself more as a Bruria, wife of reb meir.

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Professor Nehama Leibowitz (1905-1997), sportsbook winner of the Israel Prize in Education, was a unique figure in the twentieth century Jewish landscape. She wrote a best-selling series, Studies in the Weekly Torah Portion, and provided a one-woman correspondence course in Bible, using bet nfl her famous gilyonot (worksheets), for more than thirty years. A brilliant teacher, an erudite scholar, and a forthright, warm and humorous human being, she left her mark on tens of thousands of people around the world: taxi drivers, sportsbook waitresses, professors, rabbis, kibbutzniks and students.
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