Gender, the Bible, and the Art of Translation

Gender, the Bible, and the Art of Translation

May 20, 2024

How should English translators of the Hebrew Bible approach questions relating to gender? When should gender-inclusive language (such as “God” or “person”) be used for references to God and human beings, and when is gendered terminology (such as “King” and “man”) called for historically and linguistically? What does it mean to faithfully render biblical Hebrew into contemporary English, and how can translators share their methodologies and choices with readers and communities? We explore these questions, focusing on the newest Bible translation released by The Jewish Publication Society, THE JPS TANAKH: Gender-Sensitive Edition.

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Who among Us Is Holy? 

Who among Us Is Holy? 

May 10, 2024 By Talia Kaplan | Commentary | Kedoshim

When God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites קדשים תהיו, “You shall be holy,” the injunction is to be delivered אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל, “to the entire community of Israel” (Lev. 19:2). This week’s parashah opens with a message that seems easy to get behind. The question, though, of what it actually means to be holy, is answered by commentators in a way that paints a more complicated picture. Rashi explains that being holy entails refraining from forbidden sexual relations and transgressive thoughts, which are delineated both in this and the previous parashah.

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Between the Lines: Between Two Worlds

Between the Lines: Between Two Worlds

Mar 20, 2024 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video | Video Lecture

Facing the harrowing task of rebuilding a life in the wake of the Holocaust, many Jewish survivors, community and religious leaders, and Allied soldiers viewed marriage between Jewish women and military personnel as a way to move forward after unspeakable loss. Proponents believed that these unions were more than just a ticket out of war-torn Europe: they would help the Jewish people repopulate after the attempted annihilation of European Jewry. Historian Robin Judd, whose grandmother survived the Holocaust and married an American soldier after liberation, introduces us to the Jewish women who lived through genocide and went on to wed American, Canadian, and British military personnel after the war.

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The Work of Her Hands: The Art of Lynne Avadenka and the Craft of Jewish Women Printers

The Work of Her Hands: The Art of Lynne Avadenka and the Craft of Jewish Women Printers

This exhibit featured a selection of rare books printed by Jewish women from the earliest days of Hebrew publishing alongside new artwork created by American artist/printmaker Lynne Avadenka. 

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Tamar, Our Mother

Tamar, Our Mother

Dec 8, 2023 By Yael Landman | Commentary | Vayeshev

Parashat Vayeshev begins the story of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. But just after this narrative kicks off, the text veers for the length of a chapter into the story of another of Jacob’s sons, Judah, as well as Judah’s three sons and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Just as the Joseph story is foundational for the broader narrative of B’nei Yisrael—the children of Jacob who become the Israelites—the story of Judah and Tamar is foundational as well.

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Remember Dinah; Listen to Women

Remember Dinah; Listen to Women

Dec 1, 2023 By Ayelet Cohen | Commentary | Vayishlah

Dinah’s story is often overlooked in a parashah rich with other narratives that are easier and more pleasant to explore. But this is not a time to shy away from difficult stories or avoid stories of sexual violence. Shabbat Vayishlah can be an opportunity for our communities to center the stories of women and girls in their fullness and explore the ways our communities can become communities of support.

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Be My Galentine? Female Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Be My Galentine? Female Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Nov 6, 2023 By Yael Landman | Public Event video | Video Lecture

From Lucy and Ethel to Thelma and Louise, female friendships have captivated consumers of modern media. Yet if we look to the Hebrew Bible, examples of female friends seem few and far between. This session explores female friendship in the Hebrew Bible by examining relationships (or lack thereof) between biblical women such as Ruth and Naomi, the anonymous daughter of Jephthah and her friends, and Deborah and Yael. 

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What Should We Call Our First Foremother?

What Should We Call Our First Foremother?

Oct 27, 2023 By Sass Brown | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Twice in this week’s parashah our first foremother’s name is disrupted. First, when she is abducted into Pharaoh’s household in Egypt, she seems to lose her name entirely. Then, in the concluding chapter, God changes her name while she is off screen. In both moments of unnaming, Sarai is voiceless. In both, Avraham receives something grand—a gift, a covenant—while Sarai is elsewhere. Given how similar these two events are for Sarai, it feels like they are asking to be compared. On the other hand, one is an interpersonal episode of a woman suffering while her husband thrives, and the other is the initiation of Avraham’s covenant. Can the mistakes Avraham made in Egypt shed light on the holy charge he receives in the conclusion of Parashat Lekh Lekha? 

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