Remembering Rabbi Regina Jonas
For Tammuz-Av 5776 / July August 2018
Born Berlin, Germany August 3, 1902
Perished at Auschwitz in October 12, 1944
29 Tammuz 5662- 25 Tishrei 5705
First woman Rabbi in 20th century Germany.
Regina Jonas completed her Rabbinical studies at the Hochschule, (Academy for the Science of Judaism) but was denied ordination /S’michah by her teachers, who feared disapproval from the traditional community. She later received private ordination, in December of 1935, from Rabbi Max Dienemann of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis. Her thesis was on the Jewish legal basis /Halachah for ordaining women as rabbis.
She served as a pastoral counselor and hospital chaplain during the difficult 1930’s and was a frequent speaker in synagogues and Jewish lay groups. In 1942 Regina Jonas was deported, with her mother, to Theresienstadt camp, where she continued ministering to the other prisoners.
While still doing crisis intervention work (along with Victor Frankl) Rabbi Regina Jonas was taken to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944 where she was presumably killed.
Her papers were recovered in an archive after the war, and became the basis for the biography written by Rabbi Elisa Klapheck. There is a also a charming film about her entitled: “In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas.”
During this month of Av,we commemorate the destruction of the ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem, with a fast on the Ninth of Av, Tisha b’Av. This seemed like an appropriate time to recall a heroine whose contributions to Jewish life were tragically cut short by the Shoah.
Miriam The Prophetess
April –Mid Nissan
During the Passover Seder many of us bless a special glass of water to honor Miriam ha Neviyah
The great prophetess Miriam served as midwife to the physical and spiritual birth of Israel. According to Jewish legends, Miriam’s miraculous well of water (which accompanied the Israelites on the desert journey until her death) was created by God at twilight on the sixth day of creation.
Miriam’s inspiration enabled the people to leave their indentured status behind. She provided the stabilizing energy that kept the people together during the difficult time in the desert. (Evidenced by their inability to move forward when she was isolated with a disease) After the crossing of the sea, where the Torah describes her leading the women to celebrate with dancing and timbrels, she sets the direction for the future. In fact, the sages tell us that the liberation was based on the merit of the women, who gave joyous expression to receiving the law.
The Talmud attributes prophetic abilities to Miriam from childhood. when she foresaw the birth of Moses as redeemer, and persuaded her father Åmram re-marry their Mother, Yocheved. (they had divorced to avoid the Pharoah’s decree) It was Miriam who watched over the baby Moses floating down the Nile.
Miriam is also portrayed approaching the Egyptian princess to recommend hiring her mother Yocheved, as the wet-nurse for baby Moses (wonderful myth and great act of chutzpah). Her importance is further revealed in Moses' impassioned plea to God for her healing, which we use until today. (“Ana, El na, r’fa na la”)
Like her brothers, Moses and Aaron, she too dies with the kiss of the Shekhinah, confirming the words of the prophet Amos, who tells us that God has sent three great leaders – Moses, Aaron and Miriam.
Our Adar heroine is Rebbetzin Malka of Belz, a nineteenth century healer and miracle worker who lived a very full and happy life. Malka was married to the famous Rabbi Shalom Rokeach of Belz, (the first Belzer Rebbe)and built an influential and enduring Chasidic dynasty with him.
REBBETZIN MALKA - QUEEN OF BELZ
“Malka of Belz” grew up in Sokal, Galicia, where her father Issakhar Dov Ber Ramraz was the community’s Rabbi. Since he was an opponent of the teachings of the early Chasidim, it is not clear how the young “Malkele” managed to develop her pro-Chasidic ideas. She probably had a strong religious education and may have experienced the spiritual teachers of the area, which included Rabbi Shlomo of Lutsk. (Early Chasidim may have included women in their teaching circles; perhaps her Mother, who came from a distinguished rabbinical family, was an influence.)
Shalom Rokeach, who was Malka’s first cousin, came from the Galician city of Brody to live with her family after the death of his father, Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach. (Reb Eliezer,who died at the age of 32, had been a follower of Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam of Zanz. ) When Shalom’s mother remarried, she sent her son to receive guidance from Malka’s father so that he would receive a proper religious education. A descendant of illustrious rabbis, various sources cite Shalom’s paternal lineage to Eliezer Rokeach of Amsterdam (1735), and his mother’s family to the Maharal of Prague.
The legends present Malka as the one who introduced her first cousin Sholem to “Chasiduth” and fore-saw his future as “Tsaddik”/holy man, even in the early days of their marriage when he still wanted to be a businessman. (The Rebbe also had talent as an architect and is said to have designed and built the famous Belz synagogue with his own hands.) She was the driving force behind Shalom Rokeach’s early studies, particularly in the area of Kabbalah.* The young Shalom eventually lived up to his learned ancestors and became a great Talmudist and miracle worker. He is reputed to have been able to heal what we now call schizophrenia, and was consulted by Jews and Christians.
At their Chasidic court in Belz, (Ukraine near the Polish border) Malka is depicted as having her own followers, and there are numerous stories about miraculous healings attributed to her. There are also narratives from famous Rabbis about her intuitive abilities, which describe her ascending into higher dimensions to receive guidance and information about events and people.
Malka was the mother of five-sons and two daughters. Her daughter “Eydel of Brody” became a spiritual teacher in her own right. Eydel was limited by gender from being Rebbe in Belz, where the title went to her youngest brother, despite the eldest son usually being favored.
Rabbanit Malka died before her husband, who had been very dependent on her in his old age when he lost his eyesight. They are always depicted as the perfect harmonious, and inter-dependent couple.
* According to one legend she held the candle over his books for 1,000 consecutive nights (which would have given her access to the material also) until Elijah the prophet himself came and initiated Shalom Rokeach into the mysteries of the creation. Other folk-tales portray her as secretly letting him out of the house each night, down a ladder, so that his immersion in Kabbalistic study would not be known.
Shvat Is marked by the holiday of Tu B Shvat/ The "New Year of the Trees" in ancient Israel. We now celebrate by enjoying fruits and nuts in a ceremonial " Seder"that focuses ,(with music and meditation ) on the natural elements and protecting the environment.
Our heroine for this month of Sh'vat is Dona Gracia Nasi, born Beatrice Mendes in early 16th century Portugal.As a young widow, she Inherited a vast shipping fortune which she used to save thousands of Jews from the inquisition. She also provided for them with transportation, housing, schools hospitals and synagogues in Turkey and some European countries.
Dona Gracia. was welcomed in Turkey, after turbulent travel through various European countries. She had the vision of returning to “Eretz Yisrael”,then Palestine long before Hertzl and the. Zionist movement. Her philanthropy and financial skills empowered her to take action towards that dream.
It was her longing that the Jews return to their homeland and raise fruits vegetables, and silk worms. Through her connections to the Sultan of Turkey, she was able to purchase a land grant in Israel that stretched from Tiberius to Sfat in the north.
She was already supporting Kabbalistic scholars and others in that area, sustaining them in fabric trade as her fleet of ships transported goods and spices to the European markets. It was also her intention to settle there, and she built a beautiful home in Tiberius near the hot springs on “Sea of Gallilee”/ Lake Kineret. .
it is not clear if she ever made it to the Holy Land as she died i@ 1569 and there is no record of where or exactly when she passed on. There are beautiful eulogies to her in the spring of that year and later, which celebrate her courage and her devout commitment to Judaism.
A very well researched biography of Dona Gracia, by Andree Aelion Brooks, entitled "The Woman who Defied Kings" was published in 2002 It stimulated much renewed interest in this remarkable woman who used her fortune to influence royalty (loaning money to the crown princes of European counties to free her compatriots)
In 2006, following further research, a hotel was dedicated to her in Tiberias, Israel called "The House of Dona Gracia Nasi". It also serves as a museum; displaying scenes from her life in specially created dioramas.
The government of Israel also issued a stamp in her honor, which is displayed above this message.
Rabbi Leah’s recent Tu B’Shvat ceremony will be available soon. Please check this site in March.
The Peaceful Maccabee - "Shlom Zion Ha Malkah" A model of rulership for our time
Photo above courtesy of Filmmaker Rabbi Sarah Leah Grafstein (on left above) Ruach Hamidbar, Scottsdale. Az.
(Middle) Rabbi Leah as Queen Shlom Zion; (On Right) Rabbi Meryam Zislovich Honored guest, Sfat, Israel
We are now in the month of Kislev, moving towards the celebration of Chanukah, which starts on the 25th of Kislev; this year the evening of December 12th. Most of us have been exposed to the history of the early Maccabees, few of us learned about the Queen who broke the cycle of violence and initiated a rare time of political harmony (76-67 BCE) shortly before the Roman conquest of Judea.
Shlom Zion Ha Malkah (Queen Salome Alexandra) was the last of the great Hasmonean rulers, who brought peace and prosperity to Israel for nine years; shortly before the Roman takeover of Judea. She became Queen, at the age of 62, after the death of her second husband Alexander Jannai (known as a tyrannical ruler with close association to the Sadducees. ) Once she assumed the throne, Shlom Zion instituted a wide range of reforms, in conjunction with Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach, head of the re-constituted Sanhedrin. Praised in the Talmud for her piety and caring for people, Shlom Zion’s reign is connected with initiating public education, the marriage Ketubah and reform of the Sandhedrin. She is also credited with maintaining peace through negotiations with the neighboring countries, and ruling over a time of great abundance and fairness.
Here is a dramatized rendition of the Queen as she might have spoken to her religious Parliament; drawn from the performance piece “The Peaceful Maccabee” - the story of Shlom Zion and eight other remarkable Jewish women. (Presented on the 8th night of Chanukah, Temple Beth El, Santa Cruz)
Sages of the Sanhedrin: “Bruchim ha baim b’shem Adonai” you are welcome at the palace; and from this day forward please consider yourselves my honored guests. I have called you here not just to celebrate my accession to the throne of Judea, but to announce some very important reforms which I will be instituting.
As you know, our country has been divided for some time between two major parties; the Saducees and Pharisees. Although my late husband, Alexander Yannai, was a strong supporter of the Saducee party. before his death, of a debilitating illness that afflicted him for three years, he saw how harmful the divisions had become. In his final words, he entrusted me with the monarchy to make the necessary changes for healing the country.
Therefore, with the power invested in me by the people of Israel, I am now taking the following actions:
1) The Sanhedrin will be immediately re-convened so that the religious Parliament will once again have the full powers it is entitled to; and I am today appointing Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach, as head of the Sanhedrin. Rabbi Shimon, who you all know, is a strict Halachist, a man of great integrity and profound faith. Many in the country refer to him as my brother and I have always respected his religious judgement. During my late husbands reign, Rabbi Shimon- a well known Pharisee leader, was forced into exile and lived in Egypt until it was safe for him to return. We are delighted to have him back in good health.
2) All political prisoners will be released immediately. Effective today, I am freeing thousands of Pharisees from prison to take their rightful place in the teaching and governing of our society. I am empowering Rabbi Shimon and the Sanhedrin to develop a plan for re-instating them to their previous positions and to make some economic restitution to their families for lost income and their suffering during these difficult years.
3) It has come to my attention that seasonal agricultural laborers in our country are still underpaid and sometimes exploited. My friends, the produce we enjoy on our tables, comes through the hard work of the poor. From here on those who employ day -workers must compensate them at the end of the day, and insure that even short term employees are given the same protections as others.
4) I am deeply concerned about the plight of women who have no voice in issues of marriage and divorce. I am hereby instructed Rabbi Shimon to develop a a written “Ketubah” a marriage contract that will stipulate the conditions of marriage and guarantee that women whose husbands put them aside will not go away from their homes empy-handed. A ketubah settlement must become the right of every married woman.
5) I know that many of you questioned our Maccabean predecessors, who took upon themselves both the religious and the political leadership of the country. In the hopes of remedying this situation, I am appointing my eldest son Hyrcanus II , a peaceful young man in sympathy with the Pharisees, to the high priesthood. My younger son, Aristobolus II who is known for his high energy, will be the leader of our military forces.
6) Although we will continue to maintain a standing army, our emphasis will be on negotiation and peaceful methods for dealing with foreign policy concerns. To that end I am sending emissaries to King Tiranes of Armenia who is already in Syria with his armies, offering to have our representatives meet with him to avoid any potential bloodshed. Gentleman, I have spent most of my adult life surrounded by constant wars and internal violence. Since the days of first husband, Judah Aristobolus, I have seen the Hasmonean family drawn into one battle after another.
My friends, Israel is alway in danger from the surrounding empires who seek to control us. We know that the Roman Empire is expanding and also eyes our tiny state with hungry eyes. We have always been here at the crossroads to all the trade routes. We are always vulnerable. The Maccabean ancestors saw the danger of Greek domination and were able to defeat superior armies. Unfortunately, they were not able to overcome the continuing Greek influence on our cultural life. Our family had Greek names we wore Grecian clothes, learned the Greek games and absorbed the attitudes of our captors. The worst of these was the addiction to power, territorial expansion, and the military violence that became part of our political life. Under my rule, there will be no more acquisitions of neighboring territories, and no more forced conversions as we did with the Idumean people.
It is my sincere hope that we can return Judea to a more peaceful state in which there is love of learning and respect for Torah. In that context, I want the honored Rabbis here to know that the kitchen in the palace has been totally kashered to ensure total conformity with the laws of Kashrut. Some of the golden dishes that could not be properly cleansed have been discarded or sold to non-Jews with the proceeds going to charity.
While I am Queen, our Temple will be a house of prayer for all people and this palace will be the house of the Shekhinah. All will be welcomed here. In the many years of suffering we all have endured , I always had one prayer; the prayer of King David from the Psalms:
Achat shaalti- me eyt Adonai otah avakesh
Shivti b beit ha Shekhinah kol y ‘mai chai-ai
lachazot b’ noam. b’noam Adonai u' l’vakeir b’Hechalo
This thing I asked, I asked of my God, this and nothing more
to live in the house of Shekhinah all the days of my life
to abide within the divine pleasure of God
and to visit the heavenly palaces.
This has been my wish and God willing it will be granted to me in the autumn of my life and to all of you.
Creating A Life Without Bitterness: Celebrating The Memory Of The Rebbe Of Ludmir
Blog for Cheshvan 5778
We have just entered the month of Cheshvan, often referred to as “Mar Cheshvan”/ bitter Cheshvan because of its lack of holidays. While celebrations certainly lift us up, there is something to be said for dealing with adversity without it becoming bitterness. As I re-read the material now more available on the Rebbe of Ludmir, I am struck by the consistency of her life work, despite major obstacles.
Many of us have heard about the “Betulah”Hannah Rachel Werbemacher, know as an inspired Chasidic Rebbe in the mid 19th century Ukraine. Generations know the story of her falling into a grave (after the death of her mother and the absence of her fiancée) and emerging with what she described as a new soul that led her to take on the male religious obligations and teach in the manner of Chasidic rabbis of her time.
A Torah prodigy from youth, she studied advanced Jewish texts and shared her teachings with numerous followers who came to her “Shtibl”, the “Green Shul” for prayer, study and healing. As her popularity increased. she was opposed by the important rabbis of her day- including Mordechai of Tchernobyl, whose saintly father had foreseen her miraculous birth when he blessed her childless parents.
Yielding to pressure to marry, she did so very briefly, and got a Ghett/divorce after refusing to consummate the marriage. Most sources suggest that she lost her devotees once she was seen as a married woman, rather than a uniquely blessed Virgin ! Biographers then minimize the narrative of her life in Ludmir (for about twenty five years) still functioning as spiritual teacher and healer but without a congregation.
Considering the opposition to her work, that could have been a time of terrible loss and bitterness. Yet nothing in the record suggests that she did anything but what she had already done; namely study , pray and heal. I imagine that she continued to have female followers and that people came more privately for healings.
What we do have is more data on her life after about age fifty when she made “Aliyah” to the land of Israel/Palestine. In those days it was a dangerous and difficult journey, so I wonder if she re-married to have support on the trip. (her second marriage also ended in divorce, suggesting she was not interested in a conventional relationship)
Once in Jerusalem, she again re-emerged as spiritual teacher, especially for women, and was known for leading pilgrimages to Rachel’s Tomb on the New Moon. Her daily devotions at the Western Wall were also chronicled.
In 2004 her burial site on the Mount of Olives was finally found (a great story in itself) and restored through the efforts of Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan (Navah Tehilah. Jerusalem) and friends.
The most thorough documentation of her life and accomplishments was written in 2003 by Prof Nathaniel Deutsch of U.C. Santa Cruz - Entitled: “The Maiden of Ludmir. A Jewish Holy Woman and Her World”
An earlier short biography, by Rabbi Gershon Winkler, “They Called Her Rebbe” is still available on Amazon.
REMEMBERING RACHEL LUZZATTO - MORPURGO POET , MYSTIC , AND SCHOLAR "Yahrzeit 7th of Elul "
Rachel Luzzatto, called “ the Queen of the Hebrew Versifiers” was born in Trieste, Italy on the eighth day of Pesach 1790 and died in 1871. She is one of the few Jewish women whose study of the Zohar is noted by her biographers. A descendant of the great Kabbalistic teacher, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto: (1707-1747) she was taught Torah from childhood. Talmud and commentaries, in Hebrew and Aramaic, were added to her study curriculum during her adolescence; as well as “The Duties of the Heart” by Bahya Ibn Pekuda. She is supposed to have begun writing poetry at the age of eighteen and acquired her first copy of the Zohar in 1817 at the age of twenty seven..
Both her parents were Luzzattos; whose families emphasized both secular and sacred study. Her father Baruch was the son of the poet Isaac Luzzato and her mother was Beracha; sister of the scholarly Hezekiah Luzzatto. The latter served as tutor to both Rachel, her brother Isaac ,and her first cousin Samuel David; the renowned educator known as the “Shadal" (1800-1865). Rachel was not only prepared for a life of poetry by her distinguished family; she was also taught to be a lathe turner in the family business. Like other young women of that period; she was also taught needlework.
Within this family enclave that nourished intellectual and spiritual life; Rachel and her cousin Samuel David developed an intimacy in childhood which was continued in friendship and professional collaboration during young adulthood. Samuel David, who was ten years younger, was early identified as a prodigy and became a teacher and thinker of great importance in the Jewish world. He acknowledged being influenced by Rachel whose poetry indicates a wide range of literary and religious knowledge. It was the Shadal, with his advantages as a male scholar, who provided Rachel with opportunities to publish her poetry in journals which he edited or influenced.
The cousins differed philosophically, with Rachel moving in the direction of romantic mysticism and Messianic longing - like their Kabbalistic predecessor while Shadal developed and argued for his own brand of passionate but rationalistic neo-Orthodoxy. We know that it was Samuel David who provided her with a copy of the Zohar, which she had requested. Unfortunately, we do not know the extent of her Kabbalistic study and whether she had mentors for her reading of Zohar as an adult. While she wrote of the future redemption, “Shadal” engaged in critique and dialogue with other great thinkers of the turbulent mid- nineteenth century in a process which ushered in the Jewish enlightenment movement and contemporary Zionism.
Rachel married late, at age twenty nine; reputedly disagreeing with her family’s choices of suitors and holding out for her choice of merchant Jacob Morpurgo. One can’t help wondering if she was in resistance to giving up her life of study and prayer. Her biographer states that she studied daily with her cousin Samuel David. After her marriage she was subsumed in a life of embroidery, lithography and housework plus rearing four children under difficult financial conditions. She had three sons (who all died within a few years of her death) and one daughter named Peninah who collected her Mother’s poems for eventual publication, and lived to the age of sixty seven. The daughter portrays Rachel’s life as providing little time for study and writing except for sleepless late nights and “Rosh Chodesh”/ New Moon ( which was celebrated by Jewish women) when she suspended the needlework she excelled at and presumably sold.
Rachel managed to sustain her professional life as a writer through Samuel David’s publication “Kochavei Yitzchak” and the exchange of personal letters with Italian and German scholars, many of whom admired her work. This admiration is also reflected in the introduction to the collection of her poems, published in 1890 - 100 years after her birth - by Rabbi Vittorio Castigilioni, the chief Rabbi of Rome under the title of “Rachels Harp” (Ugav Rachel).
In the latter part of her life, Rachel encountered the Montefiores, the English philanthropists who played a key role in the early development of Jewish Palestine. When Lord and Lady Montefiore traveled through Trieste on the way to Israel in 1855, Rachel was deeply affected and dedicated a poem to commemorate their visit. Her admiration for them, and her own longing to visit Palestine are expressed in her poems of that period, and a story that she considered accompanying them - as a servant - at age 65. ! She continued to write- in Hebrew - expressing her faith in the coming of the Messianic era and the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael.
Excerpt from one of Rachel Luzzato Morpurgo’s last poems
I watch the eternal hills, the far, far flying
with glorious flowers even over-run
I take me eagles wings, with vision
and brow upraised to look upon the sun.
Ye skies how fair the paths above your spaces !
There freedom shines for ever like a star
The winds are blowing through your lofty places
And who, ah who can say how sweet they are.
As with so many other distinguished women, the biographical information on Rachel Luzzatto survived in part because it was connected with accomplished male relatives. Since the “Shadal” was a famous scholar, thinker, and writer there is material about Rachel’s life in biographies written by and about him. He helped publish her work in periodicals he was involved in; some of their poetic correspondence has been preserved in the annals of “Kochavei Yitzchak." Early in the twentieth century a short biography of Rachel, appeared in English, the work of biographer, Nina Davis Salamon. More recent and more available is the research and writings of Prof. Howard Adelman of Smith College. “See Women of the Word”, Judith Baskin, Ed. Wayne State 1994.
This"Rosh Chodesh" falls on Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25 which also coincides with the end of Ramadan. And it comes right after the summer solstice which traditionally celebrates the Babylonian God, Tammuz.
Most of us in the west, did not grow up with a solstice tradition. Yet it is a very old middle eastern practice -certainly going back to the Sumerians - and possibly even to the bronze age. Both Jewish Arabic literary sources mention solstice up until the 10th or 11th century. In fact, there was supposedly a synagogue practice in place up until the 10th century.
What is especially interesting is that the Hebrew month is named for the Babylonian God Tammuz .
Called "the flawless youth" he was the young and beautiful masculine deity who was the consort of the goddess Inanna (as Dumuzi) and later the goddess Ishtar. After celebrating the "Sacred marriage"he was presumably sacrificed to guarantee the fertility of the earth.
There are many myths about Tammuz/Dumuzi the main one being that his body was cut into pieces to nourish the dry ground after the dry summer months. Another suggests that he went down into the dark underworld to rescue Inanna and was then held hostage there for half of the year in ransom for her.
What is documented is that for many hundreds of years women in the middle east had some form of weeping ritual to mourn the loss of the beautiful young male energy. The prophet Ezekiel comments negatively on the Jewish women lamenting the death of Tammuz at the gates of the temple. Beyond that we have very little description of the ritual.
It could be a metaphor on the end of the wheat crop, the loss of vibrant youth, and perhaps overall some way of coping with early male death. One of my teachers, Rabbi Michael Robinson, of blessed memory taught that we have not yet ended the practice of sacrificing young men in wars that were usually launched by old men in power. That remains true even now, as we send young men and women into harms way - pp
often for causes we cannot justify.
At this time of year I like to focus on blessing all of the young men whose beauty and vitality is so needed and yet often brought down to an early halt. It also the time of life when their effusive energy and strength can so easily go towards interests and addictions that are damaging to them and their families.
I think especially of all the young black men in jail, incarcerated for minor crimes that would not result in the same punishment for white guys.
Whoever you choose to bring to mind I hope that you will find some young person who would benefit from your blessing, your meditative energy, and your insights.
For lengthier exposition of Rabbi Leah's writings on Rosh Chodesh, please go to the publication section of this website for a chapter on new moon from her book "On the Wings of Shekhinah".
Or see her chapter in "celebrating the new moon" an anthology , Susan Berrin editor. "On Wings of Shekhinah" is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. Also Judaica shops; Including Afikomen in Berkeley. The book is also available directly from the publisher "Quest publications" which has a wonderful catalog.
Bertha Pappenheim who left the planet on second day of Shavuoth in 5765 (may 28 1936) was the founder and president of "Die judischer frauenbund ,"(Jewish Women's Association in Germany) . which functioned in Europe from early 1900 to 1939. Reputed to have 32,000 members in 1907 it grew to over 50,000.
A prolific writer and activist on behalf women's rights; she decried the "trafficking" of Jewish women (and entrapment into prostitution) which was taking place in her time. The organization she headed focused on the plight of orphans, widows and single mothers. She also petitioned Rabbinical gatherings on behalf of World War I "Agunot" (women whose husbands went missing, who could not re-marry under Jewish law without actual evidence)
Though frequently at odds with Jewish communal leadership; she was a devout Orthodox Jew all of her life and perpetuated Jewish culture and religion in the home for girls that she created in Neu Eisenberg. (A model of progressive social work, medical care, job training etc.)
While Pappenheim's life has not yet been fully celebrated in the Jewish world, she is actually quite well known in psychoanalytic circles under the pseudonym of "Anna O" in the journals of Joseph Breuer (who treated her with early psychoanalysis as a young woman ) Breuer later published her therapy as a case study with Sigmund Freud. She is sometimes credited with initiating "free association" which she described as "Chimney sweeping".
Before she died in 1936 Ms. Pappenheim was summoned for questioning by the state police in Offenbach, but she was not detained. However, In 1938 the home was attacked. It was disbanded by the Gestapo in 1942 and the residents were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp where most of them perished.
A descendant of "Gluckel of Hamlin" Pappenheim translated Gluckel's famous memoir and some religious texts from Yiddish to German. Her lifelong creative productivity is especially impressive considering that she spent many years in hospitals as a young adult, dealing with physical and mental health problems.
A pioneer for social change; Pappenheim was honored with a German stamp bearing her likeness in 1954. (Series called "Benefactors of Mankind") An excellent biography by Marion Kaplan was published by Greenwich press in 1979 and numerous articles have documented her extraordinary life.
This Shavuoth ( which falls on May 31 and June 1 this year) please consider reading about Bertha Pappenheim and telling her story. My practice for commemorating her and other heroines is Yahrzeit candles, Kaddish and meditation.
The Story Of "Malkele die Triskerin"
Rabbi Leah is a published author, researcher and teacher. Much of her work has focused on the feminine (both divine and human) in Jewish tradition.
Rabbi Leah: Kabbalah by the Sea