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Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World
     

Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World

by Christine Benvenuto
 

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She is feared and desired. She is the symbol of a family's failure and a culture's dissolution. She is a courageous ally, a loyal fellow traveler, and a mother struggling for the survival of the same family and culture whose destruction she supposedly seeks.

The gentile woman has been all these things and more to the Jewish people. Her almost mythic

Overview

She is feared and desired. She is the symbol of a family's failure and a culture's dissolution. She is a courageous ally, a loyal fellow traveler, and a mother struggling for the survival of the same family and culture whose destruction she supposedly seeks.

The gentile woman has been all these things and more to the Jewish people. Her almost mythic status has its roots in the dawn of Jewish history and repercussions that extend beyond our own time to shape the Jewish future. It also entails more baggage than any woman could possibly hope to carry.

Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World, unpacks that baggage. Shiksa tells the stories of gentile women and women converts living in the Jewish community today, sharing insights from rabbis, Jewish feminists, educators and therapists. The book explores relationships between Jewish and gentile women, particularly Jewish mothers and their gentile daughters-in-law, as well as those between Jewish men and gentile women. And it looks at some of the fascinating Biblical figures whose stories startle with their relevance to today's most intimate issues of Jewish identity.

At a time when the Jewish community is rife with concern over intermarriage, Shiksa offers a fearless examination of the gentile and converted women residing within its gates, occupying embattled yet permanent places as partners, daughters, sisters, mothers, friends.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At best exhaustive and provocative, and at worst exhausting and inflammatory, this study addresses the role gentile women ("shiksas") played in the Bible and, to a point, explores the role their contemporary sisters play in American Judaism today. Discussion of biblical gentile women is thorough, from the better known Hagar and Jezebel to the lesser known Cozbi and Zimri. However, though journalist Benvenuto concedes that her contemporary subjects "are individuals, each with her own history and perspective" and are "not intended to represent the full range of gentile women raising children in, or on the edge, of the Jewish community," a tone of strident indignation permeates the book. Benvenuto tells a tale of relentless exclusion, of gentile wives being shut out of shul life. Of her almost 30 interviewees, only two women have enough self-conviction to be comfortable in their choices, and Benvenuto dismisses as "implausible" one Jewish leader's claim that she has never heard "any negative attitudes towards non-Jewish women expressed." Although only two men are featured, one alone and one as part of a couple, Benvenuto offers the generalization that "young Jewish men still seem to count shiksas before they fall asleep at night, [while] married men... tend to deny that a partiality for gentile women played a role when they chose their non-Jewish wives." Few topics within Judaism are as volatile or as potentially divisive, and this account appears more likely to fan the flames than contribute to serious, constructive dialogue. (Mar. 18) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The first nonfiction text to explore the myths and realities surrounding the gentile woman in the Jewish community, this book shows how women who have been labeled shiksas (Yiddish slang, derived from an ancient term meaning unclean, loathed thing) continue to live and love in spite of the lack of acceptance they often face. The book ventures back and forth between Benvenuto's interpretation of the significance of gentile women in the Torah and her anecdotal retelling of conversations she has shared with gentile women now, especially concerning potential suitors and mothers-in-law. Benvenuto takes the subject personally, and as both a gentile who married into a Jewish family and a convert to Judaism, she has compassion for both sides. Her passion for the subject may be her downfall, however. She repeats information (presumably for emphasis) and focuses inordinate attention on the few issues with which she has firsthand experience. It reads like a sermon, written to comfort the "shiksa goddesses" of and to whom Benvenuto speaks. Her intended audience therefore seems quite limited and the academic potential nominal. Recommended for women's studies and Jewish studies collections, mainly for lack of an alternative.-Khadijah Caturani, "Library Journal" Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429945639
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
03/18/2004
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
297 KB

Meet the Author

Christine Benvenuto is the author of fiction, essays, and reviews that have appeared in many publications, including The Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tikkun and Moment. She lives in Massachusetts.


Christine Benvenuto is the author of fiction, essays, and reviews that have appeared in many publications, including The Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tikkun and Moment. She is the author of the books Sex Changes and Shiksa. She lives in Massachusetts.

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