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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploration of the role of the rabbi’s wife Landau-Chark, Susan Janette


The purpose of this study is to explore the role of the rabbinical wife. I first utilized a number of historical studies to aid in situating the rabbinical wife at different points in Jewish history. Certain general characteristics of their role in the community were noted. Their activities extended beyond those traditionally associated with Jewish women. The differences in this role was linked, to an extent, to the shifting role of the rabbis themselves. Unfortunately, most of the primary historical documents have been written by men, and thus shed limited light on these women's actual experiences. The contemporary perspective was obtained through interviews. Six women married to congregational rabbis met with the researcher. The wives were asked to respond to a series of questions that addressed aspects of their lives as rabbinical wives. Two interviews were conducted. The initial interview was tape-recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were then used in a follow-up interview to clarify issues that arose during the initial interview. The results from these interviews allow us to hear from the women themselves. The wives of the rabbis expressed ambivalence about their leadership. People approach the rabbi's wife with a variety of questions. She herself has a strong Jewish education, but despite her knowledge she has no official status within the Jewish community. She can respond to only the most basic questions. In her private life, the rabbinical wife is gracious and attentive to the needs of the community and will frequently have people in her home for religious and social events. At the same time, her position inhibits deep relationships with the people around her. This research provides the detail on the role of the rabbinical wife, and contributes to a feminist re-reading of the history of religious leadership in the Jewish community.

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