DIRSHUNI: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ISRAELI WOMEN’S MIDRASHIM, VOLUME 2
TAMAR BIALA, Editor
Dirshuni is the name of a volume, the first of its kind, of new Midrashim, written in Hebrew, by Israeli women, living and writing today. Midrash, literally "searching out," is the classical form of Jewish Bible interpretation pioneered by the ancient rabbis, creating a moral and existential connection between the original text and its readers in their day. Dirshuni is the first attempt by Israeli women to use the classical form to express their religious and moral thought and experience in deep dialogue with the tradition and its texts. The first volume was published by one of Israel's largest publishing houses in the summer of 2009 and has gone through several printings. Dirshuni has already taken a place on the Jewish bookshelf, is being cited, taught and argued over in Israel.
Gathering the voices of women deeply versed in traditional Jewish learning, Dirshuni is a unique addition to the library of Jewish sacred literature. Neither poetry, nor sermons, nor essays, the Midrashim are written in classic style, interpreting, commenting on and continuing the words of the Bible, the Talmud, and other classics in a new voice.
Many of the Midrashim deal with issues of special concern to women, others are of more universal interest, and all represent the existential struggles of Israeli women.They deal with issues of social justice, the treatment of women by Jewish law and rabbinic authority, divorce, conversion, mamzerut, post-Holocaust theology as well as wide-ranging discussions of Biblical personalities, women's religious roles, sexuality and fertility, prayer, the meaning of Torah study, and more.
Dirshuni is an anthology and features a diverse range of Israeli women – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and avowedly secular, of all political stripes and ethnic backgrounds, from cities, kibbutzim, small towns and suburbs – all sharing a love and knowledge of Hebrew and the classical sources, and the will and skill to read and reread the Torah as hard and powerfully as they can.
Since the publication of Volume One in the summer of 2009 Dirshuni has elicited passionate reactions – from those who love it and those who condemn it. Symposia and discussion groups have been held on it all over Israel, in both the center and the periphery, and it has been reviewed in the press.
Our dream is to turn out other volumes, such that Dirshuni and its message of empowerment, self-expression and love of Torah will become available to more women, and over time take its place on the shelf of sacred Jewish books.
We are creating here a kind of textual activism, a theological-literary work that is itself a call to action.
Risks and challenges
Publication is certain, since volume 1 did very well and the publisher has committed to publishing volume 2. A significant American university press has on several occasions turned to me to express its strong interest in publishing a volume of English translation of our Hebrew texts - and that is the next project to which I'll be turning.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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