1. Embodied Religious Authority: New Approaches in the Study of Judaism

The Religious Body Imagined - Pamela D. Winfield

Michal Raucher [+-]
Rutgers University
Michal Raucher is an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Her research lies at the intersection of Israel studies, Jewish ethics, and the anthropology of women in Judaism. As a Fulbright Fellow, Dr. Raucher conducted ethnographic research on reproductive ethics of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women in Israel. She has been awarded grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation for anthropological research, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Crown Family Foundation. Drawing on this research, Michal will publish her first book, Birthing Ethics: Reproductive Ethics among Haredi Women in Jerusalem with Indiana University Press in 2020. Prior to joining the Rutgers faculty she was an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Michal has degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate from Northwestern University. She is currently researching the ordination of Orthodox Jewish women in Israel and America with the support of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the American Academy of Religion, and the University of Cincinnati.


Scholarship in Jewish studies leans heavily towards the study of rabbinic texts and rabbinic figures, perpetuating the falsehood that texts, discourse, and rabbinic elites (men, both historical and contemporary) alone define Judaism and construct religious authority. When Jewish religious bodies are discussed, they are often depicted as feeble or grotesque—ineffective as bodies. Conversely, bodies are often understood as that which threatens the purity or power of texts. Drawing on ethnographic research with two groups of women—Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women in Jerusalem and female Orthodox clergy in America—I argue that religious identity and religious authority also come from bodies. This paper explores how the study of Judaism would be significantly changed by refocusing on the embodied aspects of religious authority.

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Raucher, Michal. 1. Embodied Religious Authority: New Approaches in the Study of Judaism. The Religious Body Imagined. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2021. ISBN 9781781799727. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39645. Date accessed: 06 Jun 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39645. Nov 2021

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