Secundus the Silent was a first-century Greek philosopher who in order to prove his assertion that women were incapable of chastity, undertook successfully to seduce his own mother. Though he revealed his identity to her while the two were in bed together—before consummating the affair—her willingness, and resultant shame, led her to hang herself. Though Secundus’s point was carried, his growing sense of the dishonor of his action and its fallout led him to take a vow of silence about the event; thus his epithet.
If a woman does not immerse after her menstruation according to rabbinic norms, legislates Maimonides in 1176, she will lose her dower to her husband. In her lively and original work of social reconstruction, Eve Krakowski sees this law as a “milestone in the long and winding history of rabbinization.” Digging behind the law, one of Maimonides’s more aggressive legal reforms, she discovers fascinating and largely unseen traces of women’s folk piety.
In an extraordinary confluence, global stay-at-home orders aligned with the Katz Center’s fellowship theme this past year, focused on “the Jewish home.” Back in March I (virtually) convened a few fellows, newly exiled from their residential experience, to share their thoughts about homes in light of quarantine and Covid-19.
Below is a celebration of the life and scholarship of Professor Joel Kraemer (1933–2018) written by JQR contributor Mordechai A. Friedman (his pieces can be found here and here). Kraemer was a great pioneer of Judeo-Islamic studies, a lovely human being, and a generous teacher of many students, some of whom are currently at the Katz Center both among staff and fellows.
This year at the Katz Center the fellows have spoken about how little research has been conducted on modern Jewish legal sources from Islamic lands. With this in mind, I’m presenting one such source to show the promise that legal texts have for shedding light on both social and intellectual history.
The Katz Center used the 2018 Meyerhoff Lecture as an opportunity to reflect on the field of Sephardi studies by inviting field pioneer Aron Rodrigue (Stanford University) to discuss his own fascinating intellectual biography, and to trace its legacy through the work of three influential students of the next generation. Julia Philips Cohen, one of Rodrigue’s students, now associate professor of History at Vanderbilt University, ended her reflections with the following.