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The Women of Israel
From the "Jewish Messenger" March 21, 1861

It is frequently maintained that the Rabbis discouraged female education. This reproach seems to be groundless as may be seen from the host of learned women whom Carmoly enumerates. We mention a few of them by name.

ESTHER HA LEVI. She was the daughter of the renowned Abul Hassan Judah Ha Levi, and while yet almost a child, her chords resounded with Hebrew lays. There are still ingenious epigrams of her composition extant, which she dedicated to the great poet Ebn Ezra. She furthermore composed a beautiful prayer, and signed her name as Bat Ha Levi (the daughter of Ha Levi).

A most worthy place by the side of Esther must be assigned to

DEBORAH ASCARELLI, of Rome, a glorious ornament to her sex. She was the wife of Rabbi Joseph Ascarelli, and lived in the beginning of the 17th century. Equally versed in the Hebrew language and Italian poetry, she wrote an Italian translation of Moses Rieti's Sacred Songs, which appeared in print in the year 1602, at Venice. David de la Rocca, who published in 1609, a new edition of that poetical translation, inscribed the work to the authoress herself. Deborah furthermore translated in the Italian language, "Praise my soul, the L-rd!", The Great Confession (Vidui) of Rabbi Nissim, and the Seder Aboda, (order of the Sacrifice on the Day of Atonement), as contained in the prayer book of the Portuguese (Sefardic) Jews.

SARAH COPIA.---Sarah Salum Copia was a very noble woman living at Venice, and highly accomplished. She devoted herself to poetry and the sciences, and enjoyed, in her time, a high reputation. Cincili calls her a distinguished poetess, which she was indeed, since Leo de Modena, who distinguished himself at that time by his great works, inscribed to her Solomon Usque's tragedy entitled "Esther" (published at Venice, 1609). Sarah Copia wrote a little work on the "Immortality of the Soul," in consequence of which she stirred up a controversy with Balth Bonifacio. Several poems of hers, are contained in the "Letters of Ceba," and those in a collection published by Zinana, are very beautiful. These ingenious sonnets of hers, are contained also in Bergalli's Componimento poetico delle pin illustri rimatricci, Venice, 1726.

Passing over to Holland we meet with ISABELLA CORREA, a descendant of a Spanish family at Amsterdam, and who was known as a celebrated female bard. She published (in the year 1694) El Pastor Fido, translated from the Italian into the Spanish language and enriched with original reflections of her own. This poetical translation of the renowned work of Guarini, met with the best reception. The ingenious authoress lived to see several editions of her beautiful version.

Next to her we must mention SARAH DA FONSECA, or as her whole name runs, Donna Sara de Fonseca Piña y Pimentel. She was likewise of Spanish descent, and composed a poem on the translation of the Psalms, in Spanish verses, by Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna, which appeared in the year 1720, at London, under the title Espijo fiel de Vidar (The True Mirror of Life).

Next in order I should mention BIENBENEDA COHN BELMONTE. Born of Spanish parents, she distinguished herself by the publication of a poem in honor of the author of "The Mirror of Life." Other poetical works of our authoress have not been published.

Of Spanish descent is, furthermore, MANUELA NUÑEZ DE ALMEIDA. She also wrote in honor of the renowned Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna, as we see from the splendid London edition of 1720, of his Espijo fiel de Vidar.

Now let us turn to Germany. There flourished TAUBE PAN, wife of Rabbi Jacob Pan, of Prague, at the beginning of the 17th century. She was the daughter of Rabbi Loeb Pizker, and sister to Jacob Pizker. Taube Pan devoted herself to the composition of Jewish German (Yiddish) poems, and published a song of five octavo pages, without giving the year and place of its publication. It is very probable it was printed in the year 1609, at Prague, where her brother was employed as compositor in the printing establishment of Gershom Cohen. The poem bears the title:

"A handsome lay, original." BELOSHEN TECHINA, has written all. The authoress signs her name, in the last stanza, as follows:

And now the author of this lay you wish to know
Taube, wife of R. Joseph Pan, did ever thus, ye know
Daughter of the worthy Rabbi Loeb Pizker, zal
May the Eternal guard us all!

Leaving the heavenly daughter, 'Poetry,' let us turn to the Law of G-d. There we meet, first of all, with BRURIAH, a woman highly distinguished in the Talmud. She was the daughter of Rabbi Chananiah ben Tradion, and wife of the most learned R. Meir, who applied to her the Scriptural verse:

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness."---Prov. xxxi. 56.

Not less renowned in her time was RUTH HA LEVI, of whom Petachia, of Ratisbonne, relates in his travels, that she was learned, both in the law and in the Talmud. She had many disciples whom she publicly instructed. In order, however, that none of her disciples should become enamored of her, she sat during her public lectures behind a lattice, so that she could be heard, but not seen.

Equally distinguished was: MIRIAM SPIRA, who lived a century after Ruth Ha Levi, and was likewise so deeply learned in the Talmud, that she taught students in public lectures. She, too, sat during the hours of instruction behind a curtain, to hide herself from the sight of her disciples.

REBECCAH TIKTINER, who lived, highly respected, at the beginning of the 17th Century. She was the daughter of R. Meir Tiktiner, and renowned for her learning. She wrote in the German language a book of morals, which treats of the "duties of women." The work was printed at Prague after her death, 5369, that is 1609, and bears the title Meneketh Ribkah, "The Nurse of Rebeccah." Its editor introduces the work to the reader in verse, in praise of the authoress, which is reprinted in "Wagenseil's Sotah." The learned Zelt, in the year 1719, published a dissertation on the life and writings of Rebeccah.

ADELE MENDELES, a Polish lady, who lived in the 17th century, and is known as the authoress of a compendium of "Jossipon" (the corrupt name of Josephus), in the Jewish-German idiom. She was the daughter of Moses Mendeles, in the year 1619 rabbi of Lodomir, 1622 chief rabbi of Prague, and 1635 chief rabbi of the academy of Cracow. In the last named city lived Adele Mendeles, and published in 1679, the above mentioned work.

Mentioning the city of Prague, I am reminded of EVA BACHARACH, who was born in the year 1585, in that city, where her father Isaac ben Simpson Cohen distinguished himself both as rabbi and author. Her mother, a daughter of the renowned Loew ben Betzalel, chief rabbi of Prague, gave her a superior education. She was married to Simon Bacharach, and was, unlike all other females, thoroughly versed in the law. She read the Midrash Rabbis without the assistance of any commentary, and emendated many passages of the commentary on the same by the author of the Matanat Kehuna.

Her sister in learning was RACHEL. Her work: De Conservando Habitu Faci Eijuvenili which Donius mentions on page 102 of his Librariaa Secunda, won for her great renown. But her modesty surpassed her talents; she was the humblest among all her friends, not even being aware of her great talent.

I must further mention a renowned lady, BELLA COHEN, the wife of the well known Falk Cohen, chief Rabbi of Lemberg. She understood the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, and read the Talmud and Casuists. After the death of her profoundly learned husband, in the year 1611, ardent yearning drew her to the holy city of Jerusalem, where she died at the age of 77 years, and was buried with great solemnities near the tomb of Zechariah. Her son, Jospa Cohen, raised an imperishable monument to her memory at the close of his work Bet Yisrael which he published in 1635.

Not less worthy of mention are BELLA CHASAN, the daughter of Baer ben Chizkiah Levi Horwitz. She was thoroughly versed in the Hebrew language and the Jewish German idiom, became the wife of the learned Joseph Chasan, and published several writings as follows: "The History of the Royal House of David," translated by David of Toeplitz, 1705, "The History of the Settlement of the Jews in Prague." This book, she wrote in connection with Rachel, the wife of Loeb Ponjes, and daughter of Nathan Ronshitz, "A Techinah of Prayers."

We will not look into the domain of the heart of medicine, which, as you will probably learn, was made the object of profound study by Jewish women, many of whom acquired celebrity in it. Let me mention EM, the instructress of Abaye, who lived in the Talmudic age. She was a much renowned physician, so that her renowned disciples could report a number of cures effected by her. She was no less learned in the law, and Rabba quotes many Talmudical decisions in her name.

After EM, we must introduce SARAH, the Midwife, one of those German women who distinguished themselves as practicing physicians. She flourished at the beginning of the 14th century in Bavaria. John 11, of Bruenn, granted her, by a patent, dated May 2nd, 1419, permission to freely practice her art in the diocese of Wurtzburg, for the annual and in her time very considerable tax of 10 guilders.

Another female physician was MORADA, who practiced medicine with great success, at Gunzburg, in 1540. She was highly respected in her time, and the author of the German Jewish "Book of Morals," printed at Isny, in 1515, dedicated his work to this renowned woman, in the following terms:

"To the venerable and distinguished lady, Mrs. Morada, Doctress of the free Art of Medicine at Gunzburg."

NAME UNKNOWN was in the year 1439, that a learned woman of the Hebrew faith entered on the practice of Medicine, in Frankfort on the Main. I regret my inability to give her name, as history has not preserved it.

Better known is a lady of the 18th century: KREINDEL STEINHARD. The sister of the renowned brothers, Isaiah and David Berlin, she assisted in their education, and became almost as learned in Rabbinical sciences as they. Both her brother Isaiah Berlin and her husband Joseph Steinhard, make a favorable mention of her in their writings. Until her death, in the year 1774, she gave practical proofs of her medical erudition. But also in social life she proved an ornament to her sex, and many deeds showing her amiable qualities, are still preserved by tradition.