Arevot and Sephardic-Mizrahi Feminism, with Dr. Angy Cohen
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What is “traditionist feminism” as defined by the Beit Midrash Arevot?
Dr. Angy Cohen was born and raised in Madrid, Spain and moved to Israel in 2014. She has a BA in Psychology and a MA in Philosophy. She received her PhD in 2017 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid through a joint PhD program.
She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.
Besides her academic activities, she is a member of the Beit Midrash Arevot (House of Learning) in Jerusalem. This institution, created in 2017, is a Sephardic-themed Torah study program for women. It is lead by Mizrahi women who explore Sephardic answers to the challenges of Modernity. They deal with issues related to the identity of the Sephardic-Mizrahi woman in Israel today, as well as gender-related halakhic issues.
For the first time, Sephardi/Mizrahi women are stepping into the halachic discourse and making decisions based on their own interpretations of Jewish texts.
What was originally a group of about 20 women, in the past two and a half years, Arevot has grown both in the number of women involved in the project, as well as the effect it has on their lives. Typical learning sessions in the 2019 programming year saw 30 participants. The Beit Midrash also began to attract many renowned academic figures as guest teachers and lecturers.
Through these regular learning sessions, Arevot has become a home for women involved in the project. Members find support and hope through interacting with other women with similar life experiences and struggles. They find intellectual comradeship over the course of long hours learning halachic texts together. They find, for the first time, Jewish voices that align with their religious convictions and political aspirations as women who both live in the modern world and are attached to the Mizrahi traditions of their families.