Rachel Fürst

Contact: rachelfurst@gmail.com  (unconfirmed)

Education Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Jewish History Hebrew University of Jerusalem, M.A. magna cum laude (Medieval Jewish History), 2006 Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY, B.A. summa cum laude (Medieval Studies), 2000
Academic Publications Captivity, Conversion, and Communal Identity: Sexual Angst and Religious Crisis in Frankfurt, 1241, in: Jewish History, vol. 22 (2008), pp. 179–221
Research Interests Jewish history, Jewish legal literature, medieval history, gender studies 


Claiming Credibility: The Makings and Meanings of Gender in the Legal Literature of Medieval Ashkenaz 

My dissertation is a study of medieval Jewish legal discourse, in general, and of the ways in which this literature appropriated, constructed, and employed gender, in particular. It focuses on discussions of halakhic credibility («ne’emanut») in the legal literature of medieval Germany, i.e. on rulings concerning the acceptability or non-acceptability of formal and informal testimony provided by women, men, and other groups of people in a variety of legal and ritual realms and circumstances. Concentrating on the textual interpretations proposed by the decisors, as well as on the narrative framing and the rhetorical language of these teshuvot, I consider how the responsa genre of halakhic literature internalizes and lends expression to sociological phenomena; what a particular halakhic argument reveals about the way in which its author construed individual and communal Jewish identity; and how and when gender categories and constructs are invoked and manipulated for the purposes of such identity formation.
In a legally-organized society and particularly in an intellectual milieu focused on legal scholarship, as characterized both the Jewish communities of medieval Ashkenaz and their predecessors in the rabbinic world, credibility and believability are basic markers of personhood. In focusing on discussions of legal «ne’emanut», this project considers the makings of medieval Jewish gender by asking whose knowledge was deemed credible and when, and how arguments for and against credibility reflect understandings of various individuals’ social and ontological standing.