Prof. David Biale & Rachel Biale
27 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS
David Biale is Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. He was educated at UC Berkeley, the Hebrew University and UCLA. His most recent books are Hasidism: A New History (with seven co-authors), Gershom Scholem: Master of the Kabbalah (Yale University Press, 2018) and Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought (Princeton University Press, 2015). Earlier books are Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History, Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History (Shocken, 2010), Eros and the Jews and Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol Between Jews and Christians (University of California Press, 2007). His books have been translated into eight languages and have won the National Jewish Book Award three times. Professor Biale has served as chair of the Department of History at UC Davis and as Director of the Davis Humanities Institute.
Rachel Biale is the author of Women and Jewish Law, which was published in 1984 and is still the standard text on this subject. She received her BA and MA at UCLA and her MSW at Yeshiva University. She has worked as a clinical social worker, Jewish cultural programmer and educator, and as a political organizer. She also provides telephone counseling for parents of small children. In addition, she writes and illuminates Jewish marriage contracts (Ketubot). Rachel Biale has recently published two other books: a memoir, Growing Up Below Sea Level: A Kibbutz Childhood and What Now? Two-Minute Tips for Common Parenting Problems. She also lives in Berkeley, CA.
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a range of themes pertaining to women, gender roles, marriage, procreation and sexuality in Jewish history. While Judaism is, without a doubt, a patriarchal religion, the historical sources on gender and sexuality demonstrate a surprising range of views, some of them strikingly modern. One ongoing theme will be the degree to which Jewish sources affirm sexual pleasure or deny it. While never as ascetical as Christianity, Judaism at times denies the pleasures of the body, even as it requires all (men) to marry and procreate.