Work-in-Progress: Jewish Women, Magic, and Modernity

Please join us for a discussion of several intriguing primary sources that relate to Natan Meir’s current project, “The Magic of Modernity: Ashkenazic Jewish Vernacular Religion from the Nineteenth Century to the Twenty-First,” which explores the persistence of Jewish folk traditions, magical practices, and local customs in the lives of ordinary Jews across Europe.

Professor Meir is particularly interested in the role of gender in the maintenance and transmission of folk practices, in large measure because in traditional societies, women often serve as ritual experts in the realm of folk practice and magic. Indeed, recent research on East European Jewry has revealed the existence of a women’s religious sphere parallel to, but mostly distinct from, the religious world of men. We’ll examine an incantation against the evil eye recited by female spell-casters and a ritual in which women measured the graves of their loved ones.

Natan M. Meir is the Lorry I. Lokey Professor of Judaic Studies at Portland State University. A scholar of the social, cultural, and religious history of East European Jewry, he is the author of Kiev, Jewish Metropolis: A History, 1859-1914 (2010) and Stepchildren of the Shtetl: The Destitute, Disabled, and Mad of Jewish Eastern Europe, 1800-1939 (2020). He lectures widely on Jewish history and culture in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and the Baltics; Jewish folklore and magic; and Jewish disability history. He also serves as a museum consultant and leads study tours of Eastern Europe.

Cosponsors: Department of Anthropology and the Religious Studies Program


November 6
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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