Is Madonna's Interest in Kabbalah Part of a Historical Trend?

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

January 10, 2006, New York, NY

Kabbalah is the latest rage in the American spiritual marketplace. Madonna and Britney Spears, as well as many Jews, have sought out Kabbalisitic teachings and practices to enrich their spiritual lives. Is Kabbalah for the masses — or for women — a new fad or the latest incarnation of a historical trend?

Dr. Chava Weissler, an expert in Jewish folklore and the history of women in Judaism will explore this question in her lecture "The Popularization of Kabbalah in the Early Modern Period and Today" at The Jewish Theological Seminary's Gerson D. Cohen Memorial Lecture. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8 at JTS, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd street ) in New York City.

Although traditionally the study of Kabbalah has been reserved to select groups of male practitioners, there has been a growth in modern society of women who study these teachings. Dr. Weissler will discuss and explain the spread of Kabbalistic ideas and practices among women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then compare the past with the present as she analyzes how women are embracing Kabbalah today.

Phillip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Dr. Weissler received her PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. Among the courses she teaches are the Mystical Tradition in Judaism, Women in Jewish History, Jewish Folklore, and the American Spiritual Marketplace. Dr. Weissler is the award- winning author of Voices of the Matriarchs, a study of the religious lives of Central and Eastern European Jewish women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The annual Gerson D. Cohen Memorial Lecture was established in 1993 by The Honorable Howard M. Holtzmann, Honorary Chairman of the JTS Board of Trustees, as a tribute to the late Gerson D. Cohen, who served as Chancellor of JTS from 1972 to 1986.

Advance reservations are necessary and valid photo identification is required for admission. For more information and to register, please call the JTS Department of Public Events at (212) 280-6093 or email.

Editors/Reporters: To cover The Gerson D. Cohen Memorial Lecture, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953 or email.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world–class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

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