Kol Isha:
A Woman’s Voice in Jewish Tradition



Kol Isha:
A Woman’s Voice in Jewish Tradition

Co-Sponsors: Congregation Beth-El, Temple Shalom; Congregation B’nai Israel

Though often concealed, women’s voices have nevertheless shaped Judaism as we know it. In this series, world-class scholars will open our eyes to some key dimensions of women’s experience from ancient times to the present day. All sources will be available in English translation.


Sun Mar 10  |  9:30 – 11a
Sisterhood is Powerful! A Talmudic Perspective
Alyssa Gray, PhD

The Talmuds (both of them!) were written by and for men. Remarkably, though, we find in them law and lore about women supporting other women, at times in solidarity against male unfairness. What do these sources teach us about women’s voices in ancient Judaism and today? To pursue these questions, we will examine some stories and law from the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.

Dr. Alyssa Gray is the Emily S. and Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman Chair in Rabbinics and Professor of Codes and Responsa Literature at HUC-JIR in New York. She received her PhD with distinction in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and also earned an LLM in Mishpat Ivri (Jewish law) from the Hebrew University Faculty of Law. She is a graduate of Barnard College (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and earned a JD from the Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.  Full Bio



NOTE: Our AJL program on Sun Mar 17 is postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date

Sun Mar 17  |  9:30 – 11a
Make Your (feminine) Selves Heard, Morning Blessings!
Wendy Zierler, PhD

“Blessed are You, for making me a woman!” The idea behind this class will be to explore how Hebrew women poets have engaged with and challenged liturgical tradition, forcing it to respond to women’s experiences and feminist theology. Together we will focus on “birkot hashachar” (our daily morning blessings) from a counter-traditional or feminist perspective, thereby making the feminine self heard in new, untold ways. Prior familiarity with the prayers is not required.

Wendy Zierler is Sigmund Falk professor of modern Jewish literature and feminist studies at HUC-JIR in N.Y., the author of Movies and Midrash: Popular Film and Jewish Religious Conversation (SUNY 2017), a National Jewish Book Award finalist; and a contributor to What We Talk about When We Talk about Hebrew. (University of Washington Press) Full Bio



Sun Mar 24  |  11a-12:30p
Esther: An Interactive Bibliodrama
Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD

Experience Esther’s story in a novel and interactive way! A bibliodrama is a spontaneous, unscripted interpretive drama based on a biblical text, in which a director (in this case, our guest scholar) offers prompts for the participants to speak as, or otherwise become, various biblical characters. This is  a wonderful form of contemporary midrash to experience, either by participating or observing (or both).  Consider beginning your day with our TI Purim Shpiel at 10:30.

Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is an author, teacher, midrashist, mystic, poet, essayist, and priestess.  She has been called “a Jewish bard” and is among the most creative spiritual teachers in the Jewish world today. Her expertise in Torah and Midrash allowed her to shape interactive learning experiences for learners of all ages. Rabbi Hammer received her B.A. from Brandeis University in 1991. She holds a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Connecticut and received rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001. Full Bio

“Rabbi Jill Hammer teachings release deep and unforeseen meanings contained in the Torah and the Jewish tradition.  Not only is she learned and creative but she has the ability to captivate as only master storytellers can.”
      —Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY