Jewish women in medieval Egypt made extensive use of Muslim legal venues. By amassing and analyzing a sizable corpus of Geniza documents and contemporary responsa, this study explores how women accessed these venues, why they did so, and the response of the Jewish community. Complementing the traditional explanations given to Jewish use of Muslim legal venues, such as legal difference and greater enforceability, I argue that Muslim legal forums offered Jewish women a way of resisting the pressures they often faced in Jewish communal institutions and at home. For its part, the Jewish leadership used a variety of measures to prevent women from using Muslim legal venues; women who persisted were castigated more harshly than men were. This study also sheds light on Jewish women’s points of contact with broader Islamic society and the relationship between Jews and the Islamic state.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research for this study was supported by the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke University. I presented versions of this paper in the 2015 Gruss Workshop in Jewish Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School, in the 2015 “Language, Gender and Law in the Judaeo-Islamic Milieu” conference at Cambridge University, and to the “Jewish Women and Cultural Capital” research group at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in 2016. I also benefitted from comments from Kalman Bland, Julie Mel, Marina Rustow, and the members of the Geniza reading group: Brendon Goldman, Jennifer Grayson, Eve Krakowski, Craig Perry, and Moshe Yagur. I would also like to thank the anonymous readers of AJS Review for their comments and criticisms.
© Association for Jewish Studies 2018.