Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Welcoming a New Year: A Note from the Director

Jan. 18, 2022

By Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute begins a new year and a new term today. Brandeis is online temporarily, but we look forward to welcoming students and the community back to campus. We continue to host a wide range of online programs that share new research by and about Jewish women in all their diversity, and which explore pressing questions facing the Jewish community and the field of Jewish and gender studies.

Please join us today for our opening event, a discussion with Rachel Sharona Lewis, Brandeis ‘09, of her new novel, "The Rabbi Who Prayed with Fire." The book is an engaging mystery that introduces the bold and thoughtful Rabbi Vivian, who is both young and queer. The novel centers around the causes of a synagogue fire, and is a sensitive exploration of how we make decisions about communal security, considering all members of our community's safety. These issues have been brought into sharp relief once again for congregations of all faiths across the country by the hostage taking in Colleyville, Texas this past weekend.

As the regulation of abortion and rights to religious freedom in making reproductive decisions are once again under deliberation by the Supreme Court of the United States, HBI will convene a workshop to explore how Jewish communities and Jewish law engage with this issue. "Gender, Reproductive Rights and Jewish Law: Israeli and American perspectives," will feature scholars of history, politics, law and anthropology whose research provides a helpful frame for current debates. Join us from 12-1:30 p.m. March 7 and 14. The series will culminate with a keynote address at 7:30 p.m. March 20 by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, a widely published author, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, and founder of Rabbis for Repro. Join us for Rabbi Ruttenberg's talk, which will be this year's Diane Markowicz Lecture on Gender and Human Rights.

We are also privileged to host Judy Heumann, discussing her memoir, "Being Heumann: The Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist," the powerful story of one Jewish woman's fight to achieve respect, acceptance and inclusion in society for herself and disabled people in the United States and around the world. Join us at 7 p.m. March 23 as part of the Sandra Seltzer Silberman Conversations Series.

In the spring, we will celebrate the launch of the newest book in the HBI Series on Jewish Women, the English edition of Tamar Biala's, "Dirshuni: Contemporary Women's Midrash," the first-ever English edition of an historic collection of midrashim composed by Israeli women. The Hebrew version of "Dirshuni"  was included as one of the most important works written in Jewish Studies in the last 50 years in "The New Jewish Canon" (2020). HBI is excited to bring it to an English readership. Stay tuned for details of a special opportunity to meet with Biala for the Friends of HBI.

We welcome a cohort of new and continuing in person, hybrid and virtual scholars in residence: Ayelet Brinn on gender, mass culture and the rise of the American Yiddish press, Noya Rimalt on abortion policy in Israel, Miriam Udell on constructions of gender in modern Yiddish children's literature, and Bat-Sheva Margalit Stern on Jewish women political prisoners. You can hear about their work in the Institute Seminar.

Hygience Prpject DocumentaryThis semester marks the return of HBI’s spring art exhibition to the Kniznick Gallery. We will feature Israeli artist, Tamar Nissim’s exhibition, "Contagious Truths," from March 10-July 8. Through video and still photography, Tamar Nissim explores the experience of women in the Mizrahi immigrant community in Israel, with a particular focus on the troubling stories of babies taken from their mothers in what has come to be known as the Yemenite Babies Affair.

All of this work is made possible by financial support from donors and friends. Contributions of any size help to fund research positions, research awards, student internships and public programs. I am grateful to all our supporters, including more than 100 new donors who became Friends of HBI by making a sustaining annual gift of $180. If you would like to be part of this effort, please consider making a gift to HBI here or learning more about the Friend of HBI .

I hope to see you at these events online and, in due course, in person. Please join us and spread the word about our work.

Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

Lisa JoffeDr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe is the Shulamit Reinharz Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.