Is there sexism in the Bible? Dr. Alan Cooper, Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies and provost of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), intends to answer this question and others at the Columbus Community Shabbaton in Columbus, Ohio, April 16–17.
The theme for this year’s Community Shabbaton is “Femininity in Biblical Law,” and Dr. Cooper, an expert on the subject, will be giving lectures related to this topic throughout the weekend. Kashrut laws, parenting practices, and other topics related to Prasha Tazria-Metsora will be analyzed and looked at through the lens of gender.
Dr. Cooper joined the JTS faculty in 1997 as professor of Bible, and has served as chair of the Bible Department and director of publications at JTS. In 1998 he was appointed professor of Bible at the Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational Christian seminary, becoming the first person to hold professorships at both JTS and Union. Dr. Cooper assumed the post of JTS provost in 2007. He previously was a professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where for six years he was director of its School of Graduate Studies. He also taught Religious Studies for ten years at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at Columbia University and went on to do his graduate work at Yale University, earning a master of philosophy degree and a doctorate in Religious Studies.
The schedule of events for the weekend is as follows:
Friday, April 16—Welcoming Shabbat—Congregation Agudas Achim
6:00 p.m.: Family-Friendly Kabbalat Shabbat Services
7:00 p.m.: Shabbat Dinner
8:00 p.m.: JTS Study Session
“Are Baby Girls and Baby Boys Created Equal: The Interpretation of Leviticus 12”
A notorious feature of the biblical laws pertaining to childbirth is the way they differentiate between male and female babies. We will explore both traditional and modern attempts to explain this difference.
Saturday, April 17—Shabbat Morning—Congregation Tifereth Israel
Kiddush Lunch following services
1:00–2:00 p.m.: JTS Study Session
“Red Cows, Baby Girls, and Mother’s Milk: The Feminine in Biblical Law”
In all cultures, gender terms serve as signifiers for various concepts, sometimes bearing little relationship to real-world women and men. We will look at texts (primarily legal) that point to some key ideas signified by femaleness and femininity in biblical thought.
Saturday, April 17—Farewell to Shabbat and Shavuah Tov—Congregation Agudas Achim
6:00 p.m.: Minhah
6:30 p.m.: Se’udah
7:15 p.m.: JTS Study Session
“Why Can’t I Have a Cheeseburger: Why Does Judaism Really Prohibit Combining Meat and Milk?”
The strange law prohibiting the seething of a kid in its mother’s milk is the basis for the Jewish prohibition on combining meat and dairy. Most ancient and modern commentators have explained the law on the basis of humanitarian or cultic concerns. We will examine those explanations and then consider the possibility that an interpretation based on gender may be preferable to either of them.
8:30 p.m.: Ma’ariv and Havdalah
Child care is available upon request for each session.
The event is cosponsored by Congregation Agudas Achim, Congregation Tifereth Israel, and JTS. This Shabbaton is made possible through a generous grant from the Hereld Fund of JTS to enable outstanding JTS faculty to promote Jewish education.
For more information about cost and reservations, please contact Michele Siegal, assistant director of the JTS Great Lakes Region: (248) 258-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.