Reviews of "Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible 




Click on Roman numeral for original page, where applicable, or scroll down to read.

I - "The scholar who happened to be female," Feb. 19, 2009, Dr Rachel Adelman, Jerusalem Post.

II - Rabbi Francis Nataf, BookJed.

III - "A 'towering' teacher of this generation," April 23, 2009, Rabbi Jack Riemer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

IV - "A revolution of the old," May 1st, 2009, Shoshana Kordova, Haaretz.

V - "The influential ‘granny’ of Bible teachers," May 21, 2009, Vicki Belovski, Jewish Chronicle.

VIa - "Was Nehama Leibowitz a Feminist?" June 16, 2009,  VIb - "Was Nehama Leibowitz too traditional?" June 24th, 2009.  Rabbi Gil Student, Hirhurim Blog.

VII - Chaim Seymour, Bar-Ilan University. AJL Newsletter, Sept/Oct 2009.

VIII - Igal German (University of Toronto, Wycliffe College), Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Vol 9.

IX - Marla L. Frankel, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues, Vol 18 (2009).



I - Judah S. Harris: Studying Nechama Leibowitz. January 2010





The scholar who happened to be female 

Feb. 19, 2009
Dr Rachel Adelman , THE JERUSALEM POST

After 10 years of labored love, the biography Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar finally came to print and proves to be well worth the wait. By the author's own admission, the biography of the first prominent woman Bible scholar was problematic from the outset: How can one write about someone who adamantly shunned the limelight?

Prof. Leibowitz (known to all, at her own behest, as Nehama) was exceedingly modest and covetous over her privacy to the point of hanging up the phone when asked for an interview. To people who wanted to meet her because she was famous, she declared: "I am not a museum!" She wished to be known as an educator, not a scholar and commentator, and requested that only one word be written on her gravestone: mora (teacher).

Yet Yael Unterman valiantly rescues Nehama from what might have been self-willed oblivion. It's not surprising that this biography required a decade of gestation. It serves as an invaluable record of Nehama's legacy to the world, peppered with anecdotes, photographs and extensive quotes from her own writings, as well as from the teachers and scholars most influenced by her method and personality, all systematically organized under the rubric of such topics as "pedagogical methods," "Zionism," "religious identity" and "Bible scholarship".

Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1905, Nehama grew up in a well-to-do, enlightened, Orthodox home, alongside her brother, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, two years her senior. Together they were educated primarily at home, until the family moved to Berlin in 1919. Unterman records an incident that happened one snowy morning when Nehama was just nine. Having woken up late and in a hurry to get to school, she missed her morning prayers, ran out, slipped on the ice and was struck by a passing tram. Upon returning home, she told her father that it must have happened because she had not prayed that morning. He scolded her: "Do you think you are such a saint that God immediately reacts to your actions?" Unterman comments: "This kind of outlook, shying away from superstitious thinking, or an assumption of direct knowledge of God's ways, would later characterize both Nehama and Yeshayahu's thought."

She completed her doctoral dissertation on Judeo-German translations of the Book of Psalms at the University of Marburg, managing to circumvent the trend of source criticism so prevalent in academic Bible departments at the time. She made aliya in 1930 and, on principle, never left Israel again, except for one brief trip.

While Unterman did not have access to the family annals, as Hayuta Deutsch (author of the recent Hebrew biography) did, she manages to eke out some interest in this very private woman's life without being voyeuristic. Perhaps the most intriguing personal detail is that she married her much older, ailing uncle, not for altruistic reasons, but for love. Soon after they made aliya, he went blind and she began teaching out of necessity to support them financially. Tragically, she never had children and, by her own admission, would have traded her illustrious teaching career to raise a family. To a delegation from the feminist movement, who asked for Nehama's permission to use her name to spearhead their cause, she declared: "Writing books? That's nothing! Raising six children, now that's an achievement!"

In the chapter on "Feminism and Femininity," Unterman engages the reader in a complex portrait of Nehama's relationship to gender. Overtly rejecting feminism, she never wanted to draw attention to her novelty as a female Bible scholar (seeing herself, rather, as "a scholar who happened to be female"). The inroads she made were in Bible, not Talmud, a realm from which women were still largely excluded. Following the Lithuanian analytical style, she raised the study of Bible to a serious level, perhaps because she used a rigorous "male" approach. But she never let go of her sensitivity to emotional innuendo, drawing on ethical, imaginative and psychological readings of pivotal scenes.

Shrugging off the label "revolutionary," she served as an important role model for such women writers, scholars and teachers as Blu Greenberg, Simi Peters, Bryna Levy and Erella Yedgar. She taught men and women, at university and in the yeshiva world, never behind a mehitza. It wasn't until her 80s that her role as a woman scholar and teacher became controversial. As the best Bible teacher, she was hired by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to teach in his program that trained rabbis for work in the Diaspora. Spurred by a pernicious report, Rabbi Eliezer Schach issued an edict against the program, many haredi students felt compelled to drop out, and Riskin was excommunicated; the fact that a woman taught there served as a pretext. Deeply embarrassed by the controversy, Nehama offered to resign but Riskin adamantly refused. In Unterman's words, "for the first time in a lifetime of tiptoeing between the raindrops, Nehama had got wet."

This biography is a must read for anyone engaged in Jewish education, the chapters on "pedagogical methods" and "looking to the future" especially valuable. She demonstrated a unique teaching style, perhaps impossible to emulate, including dramatics, storytelling, the use of humor, with clearly articulated goals: to impart knowledge, to activate the students, to imbue a love of Torah and not to lecture.

In her rejection of biblical criticism, Nehama turned almost exclusively to comparing and contrasting medieval and modern commentators. Her question "What's bothering Rashi?" still reverberates throughout classrooms, her method now mainstream in the religious school system. When Yoel Bin-Nun tried to introduce historical, geographical and philosophical approaches to the study of Bible, Nehama and her students adamantly rejected them, and his proposals were ousted from the Israeli religious curriculum. Consistent with this conservatism, she refused to write her own systematic commentary, because she saw "herself not as a commentator but as a teacher of commentaries," declaring, "I do not innovate."

Unterman, however, refuses to take Nehama's words at face value, gleaning, instead, her innovations from between the lines. Nehama was one of the first to systematically engage in a comparison of parallel biblical passages, and to point out the use of repetition and key words.

In the words of Dr. Gabriel Cohn, "The idea behind her method was not to write a commentary, but to enable the student to arrive at his or her own interpretation - the most accurate and personal interpretation possible." Unterman's biography has placed Nehama alive among us once again in a love's labor that has not been lost.

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BookJed review

Rabbi Francis Nataf

In her final chapter of Nehama, Teacher and Bible Scholar, Yael Unterman bemoans that all of Nehama's key followers "are busily engaged with his or her own Nehama." Accordingly, while reading Unterman's study of the woman who could well have been the 20th century's greatest Jewish educator, I could not escape the comparison between my Nehama and Unterman's.

Unterman makes a brave attempt at collating and coherently organizing the whirlwind of voices who all knew their own Nehama. And if Unterman occasionally speaks admiringly about post-modern approaches, her volume does not attempt to be a post-modern study of unmediated perspectives. Rather, she tries to organize all of the data painstakingly collected to recreate her own Nehama, which at times seemed very familiar to my own experience and at other times very foreign.

This book is brave in other respects as well, sometimes overly so. On some level, Unterman attempts to cover everything, something that simply can't be done even with the voluminous length of this book. Even after her death, Nehama remains larger than life and cannot be
encapsulated by one author, even one as generously inclusive as Unterman.

The book is divided into three major sections, the first biographical, the second about Nehama's  worldview and the third about her approach to the Biblical text and its study. Each section could have been a book in its own right, as is also the case with the final stand-alone
chapters - which may be the most interesting - on her relationship with her famous philosopher brother, Yeshayahu, and on the educational future of Nehama's approach.

Trying to overlook my own biases, I would still say that the book is somewhat uneven. In the biographical section, we sometimes feel pleasantly guided by the author, feeling the voice of Nehama in all her unadulterated grandeur. Other times, one feels that the author is too heavy-handed in interpreting (and occasionally misinterpreting) material that needs little or no comment. Likewise, especially in the later sections where we justifiably hear more from the author, she is sometimes extremely insightful, yet at other times seems to miss the

An example of the former is when she points out that Nehama's approach to the text can be best be described as a continuation of the rationalist school of classical Jewish Biblical interpretation, which explains why she was willing to accept certain elements and ideas from
various modern approaches while rejecting others. Similarly, the author is entirely correct when she points out that Nehama never lost sight of her educational goals as a teacher of Torah in the finest sense of the word. As such, no matter what her academic credentials,
she was much more of a rebbe than an academic. Indeed, she clearly wanted all those that she met to love the Torah and be influenced by the moral teachings she saw so clearly in her own studies. This included her taxi drivers about whom we always heard stories, some of
which are appropriately included in the biography. (In the 1980's, we used to wonder why her drivers all seemed to be Torah scholars, whereas the ones we met were always trying to overcharge us! Of course, the answer was that these were the same drivers, but the
difference was that this is what Nehama brought out of people.)

One serious shortcoming in the book is Unterman's section on Nehama's favorite commentators. This section should have been greatly expanded. To take the most extreme example, the second item on the list of commentators is the Talmudic sages, about whom we correctly read that Nehama revered. The author then proceeds to devote no more than two additional sentences to this. Granted, it is addressed somewhat in other chapters, but Nehama's view of the sages' centrality is clearly why she was such a fan of Rashi (whose commentary is almost completely comprised of their words) and thus, certainly worth more
than three sentences in a book of nearly six hundred pages. Another unfortunate lacuna is the lack of focus on Nehama's impact outside of Israel and especially in North America, where the hundreds of students who studied under her at Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel took her
approach and ran with it -- often with better results than in Israel. For several reasons, some of which Unterman mentions in the final chapter, Israel may ironically be less suited to Nehama's approach.

Similarly, Unterman tries too hard to describe Nehama as a post-modernist, as an original commentator and as a pioneer of literary Bible scholarship. Of course, none of these claims are without foundation. But it is somewhat like looking to Albert Einstein as a man who changed the way we look at religion or at pacifism. Indeed, Einstein had interesting ideas about both of these topics but this is not what made him great. While Unterman is correct that Nehama was more than a teacher, being a teacher is what made her great.

So when the author tells us that Nehama's gravestone and the street named for her followed her wishes in how she wanted to be remembered, namely as a teacher, one can't help but wonder if the author erred in not respecting these wishes as well. In fact, Unterman's questionable insistence that Nehama was so much more than a teacher is made
apparent from the very subtitle, Teacher and Bible Scholar, as if the first were not enough.

There is often debate as to whether teachers should be trained primarily as experts in the field of instruction or in pedagogy. Nehama was uniquely situated at the top of her discipline in both fields, something I have never experienced in a teacher before or after.  Moreover, Nehama taught us just how much impact a teacher can have. She gave us a role model and made us realize that Jewish education is about the relationships that are created when teacher and student work together to honestly understand our treasured texts.

Her sincerely encouraging view about Jewish education is cleverly summarized by the well chosen quotation on the jacket flap, which tells us that she disagreed with the rabbinic statement that teachers get a special place in the next world due to all that they suffer in
this world, believing instead that teachers undoubtedly get more than their fair share of otherworldly bliss in this world. One cannot help but be certain that in her case this will not be counted against her.

All criticism aside, Jewish educators as well as the general reading public owe the author a debt of gratitude for all the time and effort she spent in gathering all of the information eruditely presented in this important biography. Certainly, the ten years of voluminous research that the author put into this serious work speaks for itself. (I was told that each time she was ready to finish the book, a new contributor would tell her that she couldn't possibly publish it
without this one last story.) The book reads easily in most parts and is attractively presented, enhanced as it is by photographs of Nehama and her world.

The bottom line is that the student of Nehama will read this book very differently from one who never knew her. And as Nehama had thousands of devoted students, the former will certainly be a significant part of this book's readership. Be that as it may, the book is not only worth reading - it is a great starter for many discussions about topics important to us and more critically, important to Nehama. And, no doubt, such discussions would have pleased her.

* * *


A 'towering' teacher of this generation 

April 23, 2009 


It may seem a bit strange to use the word "towering" to describe Nechama Liebowitz, for she was — how shall I say this politely? — somewhat height-challenged, but she was indeed a giant of Jewish life in our time. And so I rejoice that she has been given this fulsome biography.

Any one who strives to improve Jewish life has to have moments in which he or she feels pessimistic, and so it is good to have this biography to remind us that it is possible to do great things. Urim has given us this biography of Liebowitz, whose life is one of the great success stories of Jewish education in our time. Working in an age before e-mail and IPods, before computers and even before Xerox machines, Liebowitz stenciled her Torah lessons and sent them out to students all over the Jewish world. She taught wherever and whenever there were students — whether in the yeshiva world, the university world, or in the general Jewish community. Her study sheets were taken along by soldiers when they were called up from the reserves, and were filled out by taxi drivers as well as by academics, by students of all ages and all backgrounds, by anyone and everyone in Israel and in the Diaspora who wanted to study Torah in a fresh and thoughtful manner.

This biography provides much useful information about the woman who made the study of Torah a shared value across all the denominations and political lines in Israel. Unterman has done an immense amount of research. She has interviewed almost everyone who knew Liebowitz, and has diligently studied everything that she wrote on and has gone through her correspondence carefully. She deals with many substantive issues in her life and thought such as her relationship to Biblical criticism and to feminism, and her book will be a valuable resource to future scholars who want to study this woman.

However, her book has one defect, a defect that I suspect would have upset Liebowitz herself. Liebowitz was a woman who sought for and needed no honors. In fact, she simply could not stand honors. She looked upon them as a distraction from the real work of studying and teaching. She was content with the title "morah," which means teacher, and she needed no other title, not "doctor," not "professor" — just morah. This is the only word that appears on her tombstone, besides her name and the dates of her birth and death, and this is the only word that appears on the sign at the street that is named for her in Jerusalem: "morah." And so I must wonder: what would she make of a book of more than six hundred pages of lavish praise?


If I got tired after a while of reading about how saintly she was, how modest she was, how devoted she was, how far she would go to teach, how she marked the papers she received herself, etc. etc. etc. I wonder what she would have said about such a book. I do not mean, chas vishalom, to minimize her greatness — which is unquestionable — but the constant recitation of her virtues in this book reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Nevertheless, what we have in this book is not only a glowing tribute, but also a thoroughly researched work of scholarship that will be of inestimable value to anyone who wants to study the teaching methods or the insights into the Bible of Liebowitz.

And since Liebowitz had a forgiving nature, since she was quick to get angry and quicker to get over her anger, I will emulate her by forgiving the one defect that this book has and will urge you to read it so that you may have the privilege of meeting — at least this way — one of the most creative and significant teachers of Torah in our time.

* * *


A revolution of the old

May 1st, 2009

Shoshana Kordova HAARETZ

Whether or not Nehama Leibowitz can or should be seen as a feminist role model, the Torah scholar was certainly viewed by many as both a pedagogical and a personal one. 

We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but as it happens, the cover of “Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar” is actually quite instructive, especially when compared with another recent book on the same subject. On the front of Yael Unterman’s English language book is a fuzzy photograph of an elderly Leibowitz standing in front of a blackboard, her face dominated by the thick black rim of her glasses and her hair modestly concealed beneath her signature beret. By contrast, the cover of a recently published Hebrew-language biography features a crisp image of Leibowitz as a young, smiling woman, her heavenward gaze unmediated by spectacles as a breeze ruffles her unrestrained hair.

And indeed, Hayuta Deutsch’s “Nehama: The Life of Nehama Leibowitz” (Yedioth Ahronoth Books and Chemed Books, 2008 ) allows the reader to see just how the old woman the one remembered, respected and loved by the many former students quoted in Unterman’s book – went from being the young Nehama facing the wind to the venerated, yet eminently accessible, Torah scholar and role model she became. Though Deutsch’s book does more or less gloss over Leibowitz’s role in Diaspora Judaism, it is much more of a classical biography than Unterman’s; it progresses in chronological order, and puts Leibowitz’s accomplishments squarely in the context of her family (including her outspoken and controversial philosopher-scientist brother, Yeshayahu Leibowitz ) and of the events and prevailing trends in her native Europe and adopted homeland of Israel, lending an added depth to the reader’s understanding of where Leibowitz was coming from. In eschewing chronology as the guiding structure of her well-researched and exceedingly readable – but unnecessarily lengthy and repetitive – tome, Unterman, who grew up in Manchester, England, and lives in Jerusalem, is left to come up with her own organizing principles. She settles on splitting the book into a roughly biographical section, which comes to a book-length 249 pages, and a dissection of Leibowtiz’s beliefs and the methodology of her analysis of the Torah and, especially, its commentators, both traditional and modern. 

Married her uncle The first section devotes a single cursory chapter to Leibowitz’s youth, from her birth in Riga, Latvia, in 1905, all the way through to her early years in Mandatory Palestine, where she moved in 1930 with her husband – her father’s younger brother, Yedidyah Lipman Leibowitz. (Though there has been much speculation about the reasons behind Nehama Leibowitz’s marriage to an uncle three decades her senior, with whom she never had any children – including the possibility that she was
motivated by an altruistic decision to take care of him without violating the religious strictures that would otherwise have prohibited her from touching him – Unterman concludes that the two married for love. ) Unterman’s book is in part a kind of oral history based on the memories of English speakers who knew Leibowitz. In that sense, it resembles a 2003 English-language book called “Tales of Nehama: Impressions of the Life and Teachings of Nehama Leibowitz,” by Leah Abramowitz (Gefen ), which Unterman cites. Though the new volume is the more sophisticated and analytical of the two, both authors make it clear that their books reflect, as Unterman puts it in her introduction, “more than how Nehama actually was, how she is remembered – a composite remembering based on each person’s own Nehama.” (Unterman explains in a reader’s note that her use of Leibowitz’s first name “is not meant disrespectfully, but is in keeping with her own insistence that she be called ‘Nehama’ by all.” ) Unfortunately, some of the people she cites are identified (at least initially ) only by name, leaving it to the reader to guess whether the people being quoted were students of Leibowitz’s and whether they are reliable sources. They are sometimes identified more fully later on, and there are references to quotes, biblical passages and ideas that are distractingly repeated throughout the book – giving rise to the suspicion that after almost a decade of grappling with the subject matter, Unterman had difficulty figuring out exactly how to structure all the material. The reader gets the impression that various sections of the book were moved around throughout the writing and editing process, without the final product getting the vetting necessary to make for a smoother read.

Even though identification of the interviewees is often scant to nonexistent, those who travel in English-speaking modern-Orthodox circles will probably recognize at least some of the names in any case (two former teachers of mine were quoted at length and, in the interest of full disclosure, let me say here that my husband’s name appeared in the rather extensive list of acknowledgments). The more biographical section of Unterman’s book, which is the third volume in Urim Publication’s “Modern Jewish Lives” series, also discusses some of Leibowitz’s major achievements, like her gilyonot, the worksheets in which she posed questions of varying difficulty on the weekly Torah portion and mailed them out to respondents all over Israel and abroad. This was significant in that it provided a forum for Torah study not only to the learned, but also to those who were unwilling or unable to attend traditional Torah classes, including soldiers deployed to Israel’s borders, avowedly secular kibbutz members, and working-class people – like the cabdrivers who played a prominent role in the many stories Leibowitz liked to tell as a way of bringing her lessons to life with dramatic flair. “In her day, Nehama functioned as a bridge between two worlds, connecting religious and secular Israeli populations to one another’s values – to Zionism and to tradition, respectively,” writes Unterman. “She introduced secular Israelis to traditional commentaries, demonstrating to the university-educated that the Tanach [the Hebrew acronym for Torah, Prophets and Writings] could be an accessible and enlightened text; while those from very traditional homes, such as the members of the old Yishuv (Jews living in Palestine before the Zionist settlement ) and the simple
Zionist laborers, had their eyes opened to the riches of the Tanach and to analysis of the commentaries, as well as to modern ideas and scholars.”

The extensive time and effort Leibowitz spent marking the answers to thousands of worksheets mailed to her over several decades, asking only for postage so she could send back her responses, was a sign of her dedication to her students, many of whom she had never met, and to her steadfast encouragement of Torah study. She began producing the gilyonot in the summer of 1942, when young immigrant women she had taught over the year asked her for more work. Though she stopped creating new ones in 1971, she continued to send and receive existing worksheets, and had marked more than 40,000 of them by 1986.

‘What’s bothering Rashi?’ The gilyonot also showcase a major element of Leibowitz’s educational philosophy, in that they asked questions that challenged people to think for themselves. A teacher of teachers, Leibowitz – a professor in Tel Aviv University’s education department and the recipient of the Israel Prize in Education in 1956, though she modestly downplayed her scholarship and disdained honors – was unabashedly critical of teachers who bored their students by asking them to regurgitate factual information. She was renowned for popularizing the question “What’s bothering Rashi?” – compelling students to look behind the words of the medieval biblical commentator and critically examine both the exegesis and the passage being interpreted in order to uncover the textual difficulty that prompted Rashi’s remarks. Unterman quotes Israel Rozenson, the rector of Efrata Teachers College in Jerusalem, as saying of Leibowitz: “She played a vital role in the battle to prevent the decline of traditional commentary into an assortment of random explanations often left to the mercies of various sermonizers; and in turning it into a ‘science’ with stringent methodological requirements.’” This “movement” affected Jewish studies both in Israel and abroad. Though Leibowitz was adamant that Torah classes be taught in Hebrew and regularly turned down speaking invitations abroad because she didn’t want to leave Israel, she did teach many native English speakers who are themselves teachers, thus extending her influence to the next generation. And though Leibowitz was initially resistant to writing her “Studies” series of insights into the weekly Torah portion and to having her writing translated from the Hebrew, the English translation of the series has resulted in a widespread familiarity abroad with Leibowitz’s name and work, to the point that whereas her brother, as Unterman points out, is the more well known Leibowitz in Israel, hers is the better-known name abroad.

It can be argued that Leibowitz has also done worlds to show women that they too can be recognized as Torah scholars in the Orthodox world. She was in favor of women studying Talmud, which has since become de rigueur in some Orthodox institutions, and refused to be treated any better than other women, announcing upon arrival at a yeshiva where she was about to give a class that, “If all the women are over there behind the curtain then I must join them!” – at which point the women moved into the men’s section so the lesson could begin. In addition, Leibowitz never took an interest in cooking or cleaning, leaving it to her housekeepers, with whom she developed close relationships.
But at the same time, she rejected the idea of women taking on commandments or practices that are customarily seen as the man’s province. She refused to speak from the synagogue dais, was strongly critical of women’s prayer groups and could not understand why women would want to wear tzitzit or lay tefillin. Unterman writes that, “in Nehama’s own eyes she was not a feminist of any stripe, and she adamantly refused to be classified as one. She saw herself as a teacher, and any other title or agenda was extraneous.” Leibowitz also explicitly said she would have given up a life devoted to scholarship in order to have a child, and responded to a disparaging comment regarding women who choose children over career by saying: “Do you think I’d be writing these gilyonot if I had children?!”
Whether or not Leibowitz can or should be seen as a feminist role model, she was certainly seen as both a pedagogical and a personal one, legendary for her warmth, humor, humility and a material simplicity that shocked many of the American students seeing the cramped apartment of her later years for the first time. (“She slept on a shelf!” Unterman quotes one astonished student as saying. )

The question of whether Leibowitz – who died in 1997, at the age of 92 – can or should be seen as a Bible scholar in the academic sense, given university Bible departments’ emphasis on the biblical criticism she opposed, is rather less interesting, but the author devotes three chapters to the subject. She did address the seeming repetitions and contradictions in the Bible (as did the commentators she analyzed ), but she did so by reading the text closely to draw psychological and ethical insights from the differences and similarities of different passages relating to the same subject. While Leibowitz – whom Unterman describes as a literary Bible scholar rather than a critical one – operated from the traditional Jewish assumption that the Torah’s source is divine, some Bible critics use such textual difficulties to bolster their theory that the Bible was authored by different people at different times. The length of the author’s discussion of this issue is presumably related to the fact that, as she notes, much of the material comes from her thesis for the Israel branch of Touro College, where Unterman earned a master’s degree in Jewish history; she also has a master’s in creative writing and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Talmud, all from Bar-Ilan University. Overall, Unterman’s familiarity with her material, extensive interviews and clear writing come through in her book, though those qualities do not preclude the need for a more tightly edited volume. Those who can read Hebrew and are interested in a comprehensive and telling biography of Leibowitz’s life are advised to pick up Deutsch’s “Nehama.” But “Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar” is a worthy read for English speakers looking for a critical and in-depth analysis of Leibowitz’s beliefs and writings, as well as insight into the way her students viewed their revered teacher.

* * *


The influential ‘granny’ of Bible teachers

 Vicki Belovski, JEWISH CHRONICLE,  May 21, 2009

This biography looks at the life and methodology of Nehama Leibowitz, certainly one of the most influential Tanach (Bible) teachers of modern Israel. Born in Latvia, she was educated in Germany after her family moved to Berlin in her teens, gaining a doctorate before marrying and moving to Palestine in 1930.

Nehama, as she was widely known, is famous for her unique gilyonot, worksheets on the sidrah, which she originally distributed as homework to students attending her classes. As their popularity grew, they became widely available over a period of 30 years: to soldiers, kibbutzniks and anyone else who asked for them.

The book describes her progress from teaching small groups, to becoming the savtah melamedet Tanach the Bible-teaching granny (although she never had any children). It displays clearly how her distinctive style could only be the product of an incisive rationalist background, combined with a German passion for truth and exactness, imparted by her general education. 

The second section of the book looks at Nehama’s beliefs and opinions, often very different to those of her equally famous brother Yeshayahu Leibowitz, to whom a chapter is devoted. The third section deals with Nehama’s methodology, which was formative for many current teachers of Tanach as well in curriculum development in both Israel and the diaspora.

The biography is a fascinating depiction of an old-style religious Zionist. Nehama left Israel only once after her aliyah, to escort her parents there, and insisted on speaking Hebrew in all her classes, believing it to be the appropriate language for Bible study. It also reveals the sharp intellect and refined character that enabled her to relate to the whole spectrum of Israeli society, from university academics to some of her favourite people — taxi drivers.

Overall, an essential read for Nehama aficionados, but worthwhile, if slightly slow-moving, for everyone.

* * *


Was Nehama Leibowitz A Feminist? 16 June 2009

Rabbi Gil Student, Hirhurim Blogspot

The recent biography by Yael Unterman, Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar is fascinating, exhaustive and thought-provoking. The book is divided into three parts: Nehama's life, her beliefs and her methodology. In each section, Unterman provides extensive background and then takes you through the subject with copious references to published materials and the seemingly endless interviews that she conducted. If anything, you can say that the book was too researched because there are so many people quoted with stories and facts. I particularly liked that aspect -- the many stories and interviews -- because it really brought Nehama to life. On her own, she was very modest and did not give away too much about herself. However, through extensive research, Unterman was able to put together the bits and pieces Nehama had told to students over the years, often accompanied with a story about how the information was revealed.

The book raises many interesting questions about Nehama (that's what she liked to be called), and I don't think one blog post will suffice. This is the first in a series of planned posts on issues raised in the book.

Chapter 14 is titled: Feminism and Femininty: "A Woman in the Inner Courtyard?"

The main question discussed is Nehama's relationship with feminism. On the one hand, she was a female Torah teacher long before they became common, as they now are in some communities. And she was such a unique educator with only one agenda -- to teach Torah -- that she broke through most barriers. In that sense, she was a feminist.

But her agenda was solely in regard to teaching Torah. She believed that she had something to teach and she was going to teach it. Other than that, though, she was entirely traditional. She was dead set against any type of religious innovation and often debated her students about this, some of whom devoted their lives to feminism -- like Blu Greenberg and Prof. Tamar Ross. Students like Greenberg and Prof. Chana Safrai tried to convince Nehama, but Nehama consistently rebutted their advances. One time, R. Avi Weiss (not a student) visited her and gave her a copy of his book advocating women's prayer groups. Nehama responded with a letter opposing the innovation (anyone have a copy of the letter?).

Unterman writes:

In keeping only those mitzvot customary for women, Nehama did not feel deprived in any way. She viewed the desire to take on more mitzvot as a modern innovation resulting not from authentic religious emotion but from the influence of secular feminism. She was very outspoken on this issue. Had women fulfilled all their present obligations that they needed to go pursue some more? Had they run the gamut of charitable deeds? If God did not want women to lay tefillin then they should not -- what need had they for a black box on their heads? Whoever wanted more devotion every morning should get up early and visit the sick.

I think in some respects Nehama was a feminist, but in the sense that nowadays almost everyone is. Some feminist attitudes have become so mainstream that they are almost not noticed. Concepts like "equal pay for equal work" are also feminist ideas, and Nehama embraced them just like almost all of us embrace them. However, the ideas that are currently associated with feminism are those that she rejected.


Was Nehama Leibowitz Too Traditional? 24th June 2009

Rabbi Gil Student, Hirhurim Blogspot

The final chapter in Yaul Unterman's Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar discusses the next generation(s) of scholarship after Nehama. It lists approaches and techniques that Nehama did not use but many of her students developed and adopted. This theme also comes up in some other chapters. It seems to me that the author was too sympathetic with these new approaches and failed to adequately defend Nehama. However, a few weeks ago I had a pleasant conversation with a prominent educator who is a Nehama traditionalist, and he gave me a spirited defense of Nehama's approach.

The main competition for Nehama's approach is that of R. Yoel Bin-Nun. R. Bin-Nun's approach is described by R. Hayyim Angel in an article in Tradition. R. Bin-Nun and those who loosely follow his approach (and that of R. Mordechai Breuer) read the Bible with fresh eyes and, using a number of innovative methods, arrive at fascinating interpretations of familiar passages.
Nehama, on the other hand, generally surveyed the commentaries and evaluated their various interpretations. On rare occasions she offered her own interpretations, but mainly she dealt with the merits of previous commentaries and how they relate to the biblical text.

In other words, Nehama dealt with commentaries while R. Bin-Nun deals with the Bible itself. That is how someone partial to R. Bin-Nun's approach would put it. A defender of Nehama would say that she believed that part of studying the text and exploring interpretive possibilities is to find out what earlier commentators said. Confident in their wisdom and insight, although reading them criticially, she first looked at the great commentaries of the past before offering her own innovation. In fact, ignoring those commentaries can be seen as a sign of arrogance. You think you are smarter than them and will be able to figure out everything that they have? If you understand them properly and still don't find them convincing, then offer your own explanation. But first study what those greater than you had to say.

I'm no expert in R. Bin-Nun's approach but from what I've heard, he does, in fact, look at other commentaries. However, and this is the real critique, he doesn't teach them. Therefore, his students receive mainly his own insights and not primarily those of earlier great commentators.

Personally, I always look at the commentators first. But I consider R. Bin-Nun and those with similar approaches to be new commentators, whose ideas I include in my collection of commentaries. I'm not sure why Nehama did not do this as well, unless it is simply a matter of age and timing.

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Chaim Seymour, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

AJL Newsletter (Sep/Oct 2009)


In 1930, the newly-married Nehama Leibowitz left Germany and emigrated to what was then Palestine. There she taught Bible in a variety of different frameworks including university, radio, school, and her own one-woman large-scale correspondence course entitled “Gilyonot.” She unobtrusively played her part in a number of revolutions. Through her work, the Bible became important and relevant. For many Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox institutions, she was the first woman teacher. She was the recipient of the Israel Prize for Education in 1956.
Two weeks ago, I was at the Herzog Teacher Training College in Alon Shvut. Every summer they have a four-day “happening.” Each day some 1500 people come to hear lectures about the Bible. Since most people do not come for four full days, we are probably talking about 3000 people who are willing to travel to a remote spot and sit down voluntarily to listen to lectures on the Bible. This successful institution certainly owes something to Nehama.
Nehama was the subject of Yael Unterman’s master’s thesis, which she has expanded into a book. To call this book a biography is a mistake. About 40% is devoted to Nehama’s life. The author then discusses Nehama’s beliefs, her methodology, and her brother Yeshaya Leibowitz, who was an important influence on her life. The book concludes with a discussion of future directions and developments. Nehama’s approach to teaching Bible was to start from the classical commentators and to step backwards and consider what stimulated their comments and analyses. Her approach was primarily literary, treating the text as an independent entity. Hebrew speakers will be pleased to know that Ms. Unterman’s book was preceded by a biography in Hebrew. Ms. Unterman mentions that the Hebrew text came out as her work was in press. The two works were written independently.
Hayuta Deutsch has produced a far more detailed biography and pays more attention to Nehama as a young girl and as a student. The author’s wealth of information, however, sometimes results in repetition.
I think both books succeed in presenting Nehama’s very special personality. Deutsch had an advantage in that she was in contact with the family and had access to Nehama’s papers. The Unterman work is better organized. Both authors used available sources liberally and conducted interviews with many of Nehama’s friends and admirers. There is inevitably a lot of
duplication between the two books.
The Unterman book is highly readable. It is recommended for the so-called general reader, and is a must for educators, feminists, and Zionists. The bilingual reader has a choice of two good works with slightly different emphases.
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Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Vol 9
Igal German (University of Toronto (Wycliffe College)

This book is a new extensive and updated biography of Prof. Nehama Leibowitz (1905-1997), well-respected and much loved teacher and Bible scholar. This enormous project was undertaken by Yael Unterman, an Israeli scholar currently lecturing and writing in the area of contemporary Jewish Studies. A brief biography of Leibowitz's academic career is as follows: In 1925-1930, Leibowitz pursued higher education in the Universities of Berlin, Heidelberg and Marburg, studying English, Germanics and biblical studies. At the same time, she continued her Jewish studies at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, or Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, a rabbinical seminary established in Berlin in 1872 and destroyed by the Nazi government in 1942. In 1931, she completed her doctoral thesis, “Techniques of Judeo-German Bible Translations in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century, as Exemplified by Translations of the Book of Psalms” at the University of Marburg. The thesis explored the Yiddish translations of the Hebrew Bible, based on manuscripts in the Parma and Berlin libraries. Her scholarly interests ran the gamut from Jewish classical commentaries, Hebrew philology, and pedagogy to Germanics and literature. Well-versed in Jewish sources, Leibowitz became a distinguished Bible teacher, enthusiastically educating generations of students and teachers.

Unterman notes in her opening that “The book is based on the reading of numerous primary and secondary sources, as well as close to two hundred interviews and conversations.” (Notes for the Reader, 10) The “Notes to the Reader,” “Key to Abbreviations,” and “Acknowledgments,” are followed by an introduction dedicated to this female Jewish Bible scholar who embarked on a career of teaching Hebrew Scripture in Israel and abroad.

The book is designed to unfold the life story of Nehama in chapters 1-12, with an eye towards her pedagogical methods (cleverly collected in Part I under the title “Meet Nehama Leibowitz”). The following issues are addressed here: early years, the Gilyonot, and teaching career are thoroughly discussed in Part I. Chapters 13-24 focus on some of the topics elaborated in Parts II, III, IV, and V. Leibowitz's Zionism, feminism, religious values, methodology, her brother's influence and their relationships, are followed by a look to the future of Leibowitz's legacy. By immigrating to Israel with her husband, Leibowitz has offered an example of religious-Zionist spirit, stating that Israel and Hebrew represent the Torah's natural environment. Addressing Diaspora Bible teachers, she said: “May you also succeed in inducing your students to come up to Zion so that they may study our holy Torah in the holy language in which it was given, on holy soil” (252). There is an unmistakable coincidence between her admiration of Zionism and the cultural environment in which she was brought up, as noticed by Unterman: “The city [Berlin] was boasted Jewish clubs and societies, schools and synagogues, as well as significant Zionist activity. Nehama's family integrated all of these elements. It was strongly religious, including some Rabbis on the Leibowitz side; and also broadly educated. They were also Zionists, and the children spoke in Hebrew with their father...” (25) The author, however, makes it clear that Leibowitz was different, to a certain extent, from secular Zionists who read the Bible merely “as a guidebook to human nature, and also to the flora, fauna and topography of Israel” (368). By contrast, the main driving force behind her Zionistic spirit was a traditional Jewish reading of the Bible. Interestingly, Unterman points out that she did not draw attention to herself as a female Bible scholar (chapter 14, Part II).

In “Part III: Methodology” (368-514), Unterman unfolds Leibowitz's negative approach to biblical criticism, extensive use of midrashim and medieval classical commentators, and her belief that knowledge of the Hebrew language in its entirety is a must for every earnest student of scripture. She was involved in adult Jewish education, mainly in teaching Bible per se, and rarely referring to ancient Near Eastern traditions and texts. Though Nehama worked to counter David Ben-Gurion's statement that “the Bible shines with its own light,” Unterman observes: “The commentaries were not intended to be studied on their own, but alongside the Tanach, so as illuminate, she believed” (369). Leibowitz imparted biblical interpretation to her students by utilizing drama, storytelling, and Hebrew poetry. In Unterman's words, “‘All of life is parshanut.’ Certainly, all of her was parshanut and parshanim. This was the arena in which her work made the most impact.” (368; italics original) Jewish scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, were also highly regarded and utilized by Leibowitz throughout her teaching career (chapter 19, 413-436). Though trained in scholarly circles, Leibowitz strongly disregarded their hermeneutical methods as inappropriate to biblical exegesis. The author notes that Leibowitz was rather critical towards, what she claimed to be, their poor knowledge of the classical Hebrew and anti-Semitic attitudes (415-19).

The volume concludes with an epilogue, bibliography, and a general index. Unterman's book would have been enhanced if she had included an index of scripture. Furthermore, a significant biographical query is lacking and probably needs to be addressed: what was Leibowitz's position on inter-faith dialogue (especially in light of her Jewish legacy)? Though it is quite understandable that an one-volume biography cannot be all-encompassing, I suppose that recovering her approach to other religions would enlighten other aspects of her life and career (e.g., some aspects of biblical interpretation).

In sum, Unterman's book is generally clear, well-written and well-documented. This book achieves its purpose of presenting Leibowitz's life along with some interesting photographs and stories (a number of them peppered with anecdotes and are quite funny), and investigation into her contributions to the field of HB/OT studies. It is filled out with many quotes from students and scholars deeply influenced by her scholarship. I would recommend it as a guide to all interested in the history of biblical interpretation, feminist scholarship, Jewish education, and contemporary Israeli Bible scholarship outside that of the “usual” scholarly, academic world. Indeed, Unterman's Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar is an enduring resource for scholars engaged in recovery of female Bible interpreters in the past and present.

* * *

Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues
Marla L Frankel 

Yael Unterman’s recently published volume, Nehama Leibowitz, Teacher and  Bible Scholar, is a welcome addition to the series “Modern Jewish Lives.” Leibowitz (1905–1997), an extraordinary woman who paved the way for women to be full participants in the discourse of Jewish textual study, is certainly worthy of a comprehensive biography.
Nehama, as the volume, following its subject’s own preference, refers to her throughout, was a pioneer in her day. Arriving in Israel in 1930 with a doctorate in biblical studies, a decade of teaching behind her, and newly married to her uncle, Yedidyah Lipman Leibowitz, she immediately immersed herself in teaching. Initially, Nehama taught in the Mizrahi teachers’ seminary in Jerusalem, but her fame grew as she began crafting individual worksheets on the Torah portion of the week, which were mailed to anyone who requested them. These worksheets were tackled by students and teachers, farmers and soldiers, waitresses and nurses, judges and laborers throughout the yishuv (Israel’s pre-state Jewish community). Subscribers, religious and non-religious alike, enjoyed the weekly challenge and eagerly looked forward to receiving comments from the master herself. For over three decades, while teaching in seminaries and kibbutzim, in universities and in small groups in her home, Nehama diligently corrected devotees’ answers, never tiring of this weekly personal correspondence.
Her questions were often provocative, articulating those a modern Jew might raise while perusing the weekly portion. Was Sarai justified in harassing Hagar, who provided Avram with a child? What is the true nature of a man of faith? To what extent must man be responsible for his fellow man? What were the leaders’ roles (and responsibilities) in the sin of the golden calf? Why were sacrifices deemed a valuable form of worship? To what end were the chosen people chosen? These issues (and hundreds more) were hammered out through rigorous analysis and close study of biblical, rabbinic and modern exegetical sources. By laboring over Nehama’s worksheets, students were assured acquaintance not only with the classic Jewish thinkers and writers of centuries gone by, but also with thinkers, writers and exegetes who informed the Jewish and general cultural milieu of her time.
For those who were privileged to know and study with her, Nehama was a giant—a woman scholar whose knowledge was as vast as it was deep; a charismatic teacher who captured one’s attention and maintained it easily; a commanding presence whose classroom became her stage. Yet everyone present in that classroom had an active part to play, and each of her numerous students is convinced of having had his/her own direct relationship with Nehama.
Yael Unterman, who holds degrees in psychology, Talmud, Jewish history and creative writing, defines her biography of Nehama as an “act of collective memory.” Admitting never to have studied with Nehama herself, she delves copiously into sources both primary (Nehama’s own writings) and secondary (books and articles recently published on Nehama’s methodology, pedagogy and educational philosophy). Mostly, however, she depends upon a vast number of interviews that she enthusiastically carried out with Nehama’s students—generations of teachers and scholars, rabbis and educational leaders, whose memories of Nehama are clearly etched in both their personal and their professional lives.
Unterman succeeds in capturing Nehama’s memorable personality, and in reconstructing her classroom and the lively discussions that took place there. The reader—scholar and non-professional alike—can appreciate Nehama’s humility, admire her sharp mind (and tongue) and enjoy the humor that so characterized the rich repertoire of lessons and the countless individual encounters portrayed here.
Nehama’s worldview, or her view on the world, as her older brother, philosopher and scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz, would have it, is well drawn. The reader discovers Nehama’s position on core issues, including feminism and feminist hermeneutics. Nehama was not alone among intellectual European women of her day in leaving home to pursue advanced academic studies. From a Jewish point of view, too, her superior Torah education was a characteristic product of the ideological orientation of the modern Orthodox community (forged by the German Jewish leader S.R. Hirsch). Nevertheless, becoming the first female link in the chain of traditional Jewish exegetes was an outstanding and unique achievement. That she herself denied any affinity with feminist politics and avoided feminist readings of the Bible cannot detract from her ongoing status as a role model for learned women in Bible studies and fields far beyond.
With broad strokes, Unterman attempts a comparison of Nehama with her brother Yeshayahu. The result is an interesting discussion of two opposite personalities who shared similar theologies and ideologies (with the exception of some of their political views). The intellectual pursuits and cultural postures of the extraordinarily talented Leibowitz siblings (Yeshayahu held doctorates in medical science and philosophy) are rooted in their historical biographies.
 And it is here that Unterman’s volume falls short.
The volume’s first 250 pages are ostensibly devoted to Nehama’s biography, but this section quickly detours into Nehama’s pedagogy, methodology and legacy—all of which are dealt with again, in detail, in later chapters. A mere 17 pages are dedicated to Nehama’s life before she arrived, at the age of 25, in Eretz Israel. The formative years of home schooling in Riga and of attending the Berlin Gymnasium and three institutions of higher learning in Germany are dealt with only cursorily. “Blau Weiss,” the Zionist youth movement that Nehama and her brother attended faithfully throughout their years in Berlin, receives no mention at all. It was in this framework that middle and upper– middle-class youth gathered in the scenic countryside, to discuss Zionist ideology and to nurture their interest in Hebrew language, Hebrew poetry and Yiddish folklore. Ideologically, the movement was known for its rebellion against expressions of affluence, and Nehama’s modesty of dress and her disdain for any material excess—well documented by Unterman—are likely to have been cultivated here. Nehama’s ease with fellow Jews not nearly as committed to tradition as she was, and her ability to communicate with Jews at large, including members of the assimilated intelligentsia throughout the Jewish world, may also be attributed to her youthful, informal social interaction with Jews of varying backgrounds. Why, then, is this left out of the narrative?
Nehama and her family were typical members of the German modern Orthodox community. The cultural and intellectual underpinnings of this community are key to understanding the development of Nehama’s lifestyle, worldview and hermeneutics. But Unterman gives them only superficial attention, and so her attempt to compare Nehama’s ideas, intellectual style and way of life with those of ultra-Orthodoxy falls flat for lack of context. Historians of the Weimar period describe the Jews of Berlin as citizens of the world, who succeeded in embracing European culture in all its facets, learned its languages and adopted its discourse. The Leibowitz family, patrons of culture and worldly knowledge, possessed a family library (of books and music) that clearly reflected this breadth. Mordechai Breuer, a scion of the same community, claims that its members straddled two paths. Opening the gates to emancipation, they allowed their children to participate unreservedly in the economic and cultural achievements of the modern world outside. At the same time, they succeeded in
providing their children with a religiously enlightened worldview that allowed them to combine absolute loyalty to tradition with relative spiritual openness and an ability to discern between the advantageous and the unacceptable in what the outside world had to offer.
The duality of this orientation is fundamental to understanding Nehama’s posture towards the study and teaching of sacred texts in modern times. The tension between tradition and modernity was clearly reflected in the curriculum and instructional approach of the Hochschule that Nehama attended while pursuing her undergraduate studies at the University of Berlin. Unterman describes the Hochschule as “the nearest thing to a yeshiva.” In fact, the Hochscule was virtually the opposite. As an institute of higher Jewish learning, it sought to “preserve, advance and cultivate Jewish scientific scholarship and its instruction.” It was here that Nehama was exposed to critical Jewish scholarship in an atmosphere where she was totally at home, among Jewish intellectuals and rabbis, who pursued their thirst for Jewish scholarship in an open, liberal atmosphere. Eventually, Nehama would choose her own particular path of Torah study. However, she would never deny herself (or her students, the teachers of the future) the general knowledge reflected in the libraries that nourished her intellect and her spirit, whether at home or in any of the institutions she attended.
While the identity of fellow students is certainly of interest, more significant to her intellectual biography is what she studied and from whom. Unterman mentions that Nehama admitted to having studied with the “best of biblical critics,” but their identities remain undiscovered, as do those of all of her other pedagogues and instructors. German institutions are known to maintain records, and Nehama’s course outlines and report cards are likely to be available upon request.
Equally difficult is the lack of cohesive structure throughout the volume, salient in the numerous repetitions throughout. Thus, the Table of Contents informs the reader that Part Two is devoted to Nehama’s “Opinions and Beliefs.” However, these topics are also touched upon in Part One (“Meet Nehama Leibowitz”), discussed again at length in Part Three (“Methodology,” particularly chap. 19) and receive yet another airing in Part Four (“Yeshayahu Leibowitz”).
As a result, it is often difficult to follow a line of thought. For example, in Part Three, Unterman sets out to define Nehama’s hermeneutics of the biblical text. The first two chapters in the section survey the traditional and non-traditional sources cited in Nehama’s work, but the second chapter detours once again into issues of pedagogy, both in the classroom and in Nehama’s writings. (This chapter is particularly frustrating, because its terminology is not always consistent with the usages in other sections.) The third chapter, “Nehama’s Bible Scholarship: Straddling Worlds,” is introduced by “taking a step backwards” to explore the larger academic context in which Nehama studied and taught. The next two chapters provide background material to the background. Finally, in the last chapter, “The Medium and the Message: Pshat, Drash, and What Lies Between,” Unterman explores core hermeneutical issues relating to the traditional exegetes mentioned in the section’s first chapter. Clarity would dictate that the hermeneutical discussion begin here.
Rigorous editing in a volume of this length is mandatory, not only to enable the reader to absorb the breadth of topics explored, but also to avoid inner contradictions, some of which are significant. For example, Unterman asserts that Nehama wished not to be a “modern academic, but rather to be loyal to a traditional rational model of old, in the footsteps of great medieval Jewish pashtanim [elucidators of the text’s plain meaning] such as Rashbam, Ibn
Ezra et al.” (p. 430). However, it is misleading to imply that Nehama sought to follow in Ibn Ezra’s footsteps, for although she may have agreed with the Spanish exegete and linguist in his comments on particular passages, she was explicit in her disapproval of his hermeneutics. She repeatedly taught Ibn Ezra’s lengthy introduction to the Ten Commandments, in which he declares the insignificance of the parallel versions of the texts (in Exodus and Deuteronomy), as a lesson in how not to approach the biblical text. She rejected Ibn Ezra’s methodological declaration that the words themselves were but “bodies” that could be replaced; only their “souls,” the meanings, were worthy of preservation. This attitude towards the sacred text was unacceptable to Nehama, whose close reading of parallel texts (both narrative and legal) revealed the significance of every nuance. In her view, as Unterman herself attests, changing one word could change the entire sense of the verse (pp. 440, 455, 456).
The final Section in Unterman’s volume, “Looking to the Future,” is one of her finest. Her analysis of traditional Bible education in Israel addresses the question of Nehama’s lasting influence. Here, Unterman succeeds in creating a link with Jacobus Schoneveld’s study, in the 1970s, of Nehama’s influence upon Bible studies in Israel’s schools (he, however, includes the secular school system in his analysis as well), bringing the issues and dilemmas raised by Schoneveld directly into the twenty-first century. Comparisons between Nehama’s methods and those of contemporary teachers such as R. Yoel Bin Nun and Dr. Aviva Zornberg are enlightening, as is Unterman’s discussion of the negative influence of the matriculation examinations on the approach of the religious state system. Her conclusions may be unsettling, but she is to be commended for squaring with the truth and articulating the challenges facing the field of Torah education today