A Brief, Illustrated History of Women and the Jewish Book

While it is often assumed that the world of traditional Jewish learning and scholarship was the exclusive province of men, the historical record suggests something else. Beginning with a halakhic responsum (t’shuvah) addressed by Moses Maimonides to a man who tutored young Jewish women, Michelle Margolis provides a whirlwind survey of female authors, scribes, typesetters, publishers, and illustrators, accompanied by numerous images of the books and manuscripts themselves. She writes:

We have evidence of women making books in the amazing and heartbreaking elegy for Dulce of Worms (violently murdered, along with two daughters, in 1096), [composed] by her husband Eliezer (a/k/a the Rokeaḥ), [one of the great rabbis of his day. He wrote that:] “before she was killed, she would buy parchment to write books; her hands sewed the clothing of students and torn books; and she wove thread for the book (bindings).” The entire dirge, written in the form of Eyshet Ḥayil, [i.e., Proverbs 31:10-31], is more than worth a read.

Women and children often worked in the press as “zetseren” (typesetters). A woman or child’s smaller hands had much more dexterity with the tiny pieces of type. One of the most famous girls who worked in the press was Ella bat Moshe ben Avraham Avinu and her sister Gella. Ella started at a very young age (nine), but continued working in presses in Dessau, Halle, and Frankfurt. Thus, her name is found at the end of a the talmudic tractate of Niddah printed in Frankfurt am Main, 1697-99.

This and more can be found on the social-media website Twitter, at the link below. Margolis has also written a follow-up post here.

Read more at Twitter

More about: Books, Jewish history, Manuscripts, Women in Judaism

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy