Jewish-Feminist Art book by David Sperber

Magnum Press published Devoted Resistance: Jewish-Feminist Art in Israel and the United States.

This book by David Sperber examines the nature, methods, and contribution of Jewish feminist art to the various spheres of art, society, and religion and proposes a theoretical framework for its understanding.

The Jewish religious feminist art movement has developed since the late 1990s in the two major Jewish centers—the United States and Israel. This is the first book to treat this phenomenon in a broad and systematic manner and discuss its critique of Jewish tradition, Halakha (religious law), and Jewish religious institutions. The works are analyzed in light of Jewish feminist thought and in comparison with religious Jewish feminist activist practices. The main tool for examining the social effect of the art works is analysis of their reception and of the public discussion that followed.

Devoted Resistance focuses on the works of a number of prominent women artists who critique the Jewish religious text, establishment, and rituals. The religious text is the subject of the work of Helène Aylon (US, b. 1931), who marked problematic Biblical passages with a pink highlighter, and Nechama Golan (Israel, b. 1947), whose work is critical of the Talmudic debate over women as property in the contraction of marriage (kiddushin).

Nurit Jacobs Yinon (Israel, b. 1972) and Hila Karabelnikov Paz (Israel, b. 1984) confront the religious establishment and in particular the exclusion of women from the religious court that oversees the ritual immersion of women converts.

The work of Andi Arnovitz (born in the US, 1959, immigrated to Israel, 1999) points up the pornographic dimensions of the extreme modesty laws as interpreted by contemporary halakhic decisors.

Hagit Molgan (Israel, b. 1972) demonstrates the male structuring of religious laws regarding menstruation, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles (US, b. 1939) breaches the religious taboo by presenting ritual immersion following menstruation as a dignified ritual to be embraced.

The combined study of Jewish feminist art created in the United States and in Israel and the comparison of these artists with other feminist artists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, illuminates local contexts, similarities and differences in the development of Jewish feminist art in Israel and in the US, and the influences of globalization, diasporism, and immigration on the art. 

Book available here