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Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman among Books Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 1ST edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803213670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803213678
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,403,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tension wraps around the pages of Blumberg's memoir, an ardent intellectual autobiography by a woman in love with both Jewish texts and secular literature. Yet even more than the religious-secular divide symbolized by the beit midrash (Jewish house of learning) and the university, the struggle over a woman's place in Judaism tears at her soul. The granddaughter of a Hebrew scholar, as a child Blumberg juggled an Orthodox education with participation in an egalitarian Conservative synagogue. She details at length a depressing year in Israel at a women's michlalah (yeshiva), and then her introduction to university life, where she steeped herself in literature. Today, she has found a balance of sorts as a professor of English literature and Judaic studies at Michigan State University, but admits to still feeling a "sense of deep conflict" between tradition and secular ideas. Blumberg tries too hard to be poetic, and she risks losing some readers with assumptions of familiarity with Hebrew and Jewish texts. What her memoir elucidates, however, is the passion for study no matter what a person's gender: "If we studied we might come to see what... was truly important and what was trivial... we might come to see how God saw the world." (Mar. 15)
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Review

“Tension wraps around the pages of Blumberg’s memoir, an ardent intellectual autobiography by a woman in love with both Jewish texts and secular literature. . . . [H]er memoir elucidates . . . the passion for study no matter what a person’s gender.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly 20070212)

“A book that deserves a serious readership: a memoir that reads like a poem, a voice that’s intelligent, brave, passionate and conversant.”—Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week
(Jewish Week 20070615)

“This book is a union of letters and texts no less magnetic; to enter Ilana Blumberg’s houses of study is, invariably, to become ignited.”—Lilith
(Ilana Kurshan Lilith 20070424)

"This is a poignant and perceptive account of how a highly educated Jewish woman managed to combine her extensive Jewish knowledge with her insights into English literature. Her journey toward mature awareness, so well described here, has many impediments and we are privileged to take this trip with her."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion
(Morton I. Teicher National Jewish Post & Opinion 20070910)

“In its originality of approach, vigor and beauty of style, and fierce honesty in naming and exploring uncharted territories, this book is a great contribution to women’s studies, autobiography and memoir, and Jewish studies.”—Mary Gordon, author of Final Payments and The Company of Women
(Mary Gordon )

“Ilana Blumberg captures the voice of a generation of religious Jewish women, in love with Judaism and in love with learning. Her book is the autobiography of the feminist era and its spiritual passions.”—Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus
(Susannah Heschel 20060821)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Farmer on April 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The little I know about Judaism comes from novels I have read by Chaim Potok, Henry Roth and Michael Chabon. None of these have offered the unique, first-person perspective not only of Jewish women, but especially of Jewish women scholars.

Blumberg's preface to Houses of Study lays out a fundamental tenion: that between the traditional role of an Orthodox Jewish woman and that of a particular Orthodox Jewish woman who aspires to honor both her religion and her personal desire for knowledge and advanced study.

The story of Blumberg's religious and academic education unfolds against this backdrop. She tells the story beautifully. Her desire for immersion in studies, such as her male counterparts at Yeshiva receive, is aching and intense. That it parallels her developing woman's contemplation of love and union enhances its intensity and sensuality.

We follow her journey from the midwest to Israel to the east coast an on. Blumberg is a trustworthy narrator.

A bonus for this reader was the concurrent education in Jewish history, culture and religion. Hebrew words were used but also translated to English spellings and definitions. I could follow her story but still feel that it was written by Jew, for Jews.

In short, this is a richly-described, morally-tensioned account of one woman's exploration of gender, religion and scholarship. Well worth the read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Laremy Ager on April 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cerebral and sensuous all at once, hugely passionate but completely controlled -- hands down the best book on the readerly life that I have read. Anyone who wants to know what it means really to study the Bible should own this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vera Szabo on April 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ilana Blumberg takes her life and her choices seriously and writes about them clearly. How refreshing and impressive! I am looking forward to reading the continuation!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sarah D. Feinberg on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book. The language Ilana Blumberg uses is exquisite and one can truly get a sense of her struggles and thought processes. I recommend this to everyone.
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