In Israel, where the rabbinate together with the army give patriarchy a stranglehold on civil society, the potential impact of the feminist study of Judaism is of far more than personal significance. Nevertheless, it is only recently that the isolated efforts of a few scholars working in different institutions have begun coming together to form a vibrant and distinctive Israeli branch of feminist Jewish women’s studies, bringing a breath of fresh air and activism to a field dominated by conservative Judaic studies faculties and yeshivas. This in itself is one of the most important messages to emanate from the conference on “The Impact of Women’s and Gender Studies on Jewish Studies” held in Jerusalem in June 1999.
A longing for Kabbalah is abroad in the land. Even people with little connection to Judaism, no knowledge of Hebrew, many of them in fact non-Jews, are seeking initiation into the secret chambers of Jewish esoteric knowledge. Differing from the interest in Hasidism that centered mostly around Chabad in the preceding decades, this turn to Kabbalah has rather little to do with Jewish observance or with nostalgia for a romanticized shtetl past (a past that many denizens of “Kabbalah centers” in fact do not share). The Kabbalah seekers are after the Truth, with a capital T.