Houses Of Study

From Dec ’08 Spotlight: Spertus is hosting two book signing events this month. Ilana Blumberg will be here on Sunday, December 7 to read from Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman among Books, and Ilan Stavans will be here the following week, on December 14, to read from Resurrecting Hebrew (the newest volume in Nextbook’s Jewish Encounters series). Both of these books are good reads, but I’m fascinated by the way they complement each other, telling similar first-person stories from radically different points of view.

Both of these authors have yikhes (the Yiddish word for family pedigree). In Stavans case this means that all doors open easily for him. Resurrecting Hebrew starts as a biography of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (the man typically credited with creating Hebrew as a modern, spoken language), but Stavans gives free reign to both his intellect and his imagination. He flies to Israel, where everyone he wants to see is equally eager to see him, and he summarizes meetings with countless scholars, transitioning smoothly from topic to topic with great charm and erudition.

Blumberg, born a woman, has a far different experience. In Houses of Study she describes her fervent yearning to study sacred texts, but when she arrives in Israel she learns that boys study in “the big, airy Beit Midrash” while girls study in a “tiny converted kitchen.” Frustration becomes “a large spreading thing” that girls must battle every day, and so Blumberg becomes “a religious suffragette,” working tirelessly for the day when the Modern Orthodox movement fully accommodates its female scholars.

For more information, visit For tickets, call (312) 322-1773.

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