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Gender and Religion: Engendering the Study of Judaism


Admission requirements

A working knowledge of some basics of Judaism and philosophy is recommended.


According to scholar Miriam Peskowitz, “the Enlightenment fantasy of a universal human subject who is unified, seamless and coherent is both culturally pervasive and false”. In it gender is identified with “natural” sex differences rather than a cultural product. In this course we will first introduce the concept of gender studies. We will next examine the ways in which the field of Jewish Studies (like most other fields of study) has long been situated in an engendered discourse including the construction of categories and practices for envisioning sexual difference in the Jewish past. These categories will be subjected to criticism and new ways of looking at Jewish texts (mystical, philosophical, historical/religious) discussed.

Course objectives

In depth study of several important cultural fields of the Jewish tradition (religious practice, philosophy, mysticism/spirituality, politics) highlighting gender questions from different angles. It will be shown that these fields are not only illustrative for the Jewish tradition, but for any gendered field of human culture.


See Time table.

Mode of instruction

The course will consist of presentations by the lecturers as well as by the students.

Assessment method

Students will be graded on the basis of an oral presentation in class (35%) and a final paper (65%).


Blackboard will be used to provide general course information regarding the weekly schedule, assignments and announcements.

Reading list

Capita selecta from a.o.:
A. Sharma (ed.), Methodology in Religious Studies. The Interface with Women’s Studies (SUNY Press 2002)
M. Peskowitz and L. Levitt (eds.), Judaism Since Gender (Routledge 1997)
M. Peskowitz, Spinning Fantasies. Rabbis, Gender, and History (University of California Press 1997)
D. Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct. The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (University of California Press 1997)
D. Biale, Eros and the Jews. From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America (Basic Books 1992)
H. Eilberg-Schwartz (ed.), People of the Body. Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective (SUNY Press 1992)
M. Brenner and G. Reuveni (eds.), Emancipation through Muscles. Jews and Sports in Europe (University of Nebraska Press 2006)
R. Judd, Contested Rituals. Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843-1933 (Cornell University Press 2007)
Moshe Idel, Kabbalah and Eros (Yale University Press 2005)
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (ed.), Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy (Indiana University Press 2004)


Via uSis.
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

For more information please contact Prof. dr. J.Frishman or Dr. Rico Sneller per email.