Crossing over : the queering of the religious identities of Edith Stein, a Jewish nun, and Regina Jonas, a woman rabbi / by Emily Leah Silverman.
This thesis examines how two Jewish women—Edith Stein, a Jewish nun, and Regina Jonas, a woman Rabbi—crossed over boundaries of religion and gender to express their identities and leadership during the Shoah. Edith Stein converts to Catholicism, but she does not feel that she has abandoned the Jewish community. She becomes a Carmelite, enters the convent, and then writes a book about what it means to grow up Jewish. She refers to herself as “Queen Esther.” Regina Jonas receives her ordination during the Nazi period. In her ordination thesis, she asks and answers the question Can Woman Serve as Rabbis? Both of these women dealt with the Jewish Catastrophe in unique ways, yet both disrupted the normative cultural boundaries of gender and religion. They each embraced two seemingly contradictory identities: Stein as a Jew and a Catholic nun, and Jonas as a woman and a rabbi.I retrieve the voices of these women, examining Stein's letters, autobiography, and philosophical and spiritual writings, and Jonas's ordination thesis and her sermons from Berlin and Theresienstadt. I use the analytical lens of queer theory to examine how Jonas and Stein chose to cross over and thereby “queer” the boundaries of both gender and religion. I take the analysis of gender's performativity, and use it to shed light both on Stein's religious conversion and Jonas' crossing over into the male world of the Rabbinate.I claim that even in times of profound historical crisis, we do not have fixed identities. Instead we have communities to which we belong, and of which we long to be a part. As I compare Edith Stein's queering of religious boundaries and Regina Jonas' queering of gendered ones, I make the case that this queering demonstrates an allegiance to their multiple communities of belonging, even as it disrupts normative cultural boundaries. In the end, it creates a new multifaceted, mixed identity. In their allegiance to seemingly contradictory identity positions, Stein and Jonas each take an ethical stance and engage in a form of spiritual resistance. Both, I contend, are “Hebrews,” in the literal sense of the word: those who have “crossed over.”
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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