Summer Term 2011
June 1st 2011 BOOK LAUNCH AND LECTURE
Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816
Women are conspicuously absent from the Jewish mystical tradition. Only the
chance survival of scant evidence suggests that, at various times and places, individual Jewish women did pursue the path of mystical piety or prophetic spirituality, but it appears that they were generally highly censured. This contrasts sharply with the fully acknowledged prominence of women in the mystical traditions of both Christianity and Islam.
It is against this background that the mystical messianic movement centred on the personality of Sabbatai Zevi (1626-76) stands out as a unique and remarkable exception. Sabbatai Zevi addressed to women a highly original liberationist message, proclaiming that he had come to make them 'as happy as men' by releasing them from the pangs of childbirth and the subjugation to their husbands that were ordained for women as a consequence of the primordial sin. This unprecedented redemptive vision became an integral part of Sabbatian philosophy, which the messianists believed to be unfolding.
Their New Law, superseding the Old with the dawning of the messianic era, overturned the traditional Jewish norms that distinguished and regulated relations between the sexes. This was expressed not only in the outlandish ritual transgression of sexual prohibitions, in which Sabbatian women were notoriously implicated, but also in the apparent adoption of the idea -alien to rabbinic Judaism- that virginity, celibacy, or sexual abstinence were conducive to women's spiritual empowerment.
Ada Rapoport-Albert's latest book traces the diverse manifestations of this vision in every phase of Sabbatianism and its offshoots.
Undzere kinder (Our Children)
June 13th 2011
Undzere kinder is a Yiddish film (with English sub-titles) made in 1948
The film is one of the only postwar movies made in Yiddish and almost the last full-length Yiddish film to be made. It was also the first film which attempted to deal with the Holocaust. Suppressed by the post-war Polish Communist government as 'pro-Zionist' and lost for over 30 years, Our Children was largely shot on location at an orphanage/school near Lodz. It stars children who were actual survivors of the Holocaust and focuses on how they come to terms with their past.
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