Art Histories Seminar
Mo 20 Mai 2019 | 17:00–19:00

The Synagogue, The Western Wall and Gender-Oriented Struggle: Within the Entanglement of Nationalism and Secularism

Roni Tzoreff (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Jacqueline Nicholls, The Ladie's Guild Collection: Silence!, 2009-2013, paper-cut, 27x30 cm.
Jacqueline Nicholls, The Ladie's Guild Collection: Silence!, 2009-2013, paper-cut, 27x30 cm.

In my talk, I wish to extend the widespread discussion of religion and politics to the aspects of gender and visual culture. I will discuss the artwork Ladies Guild Collection by the British Jewish-Orthodox artist Jacqueline Nicholls (b. 1971), from 2009-2013, which relates to the marginal place of women in the Synagogues and in the canonical Jewish literature. In her collection, Nicholls is linking between the gender oppression of the religious space – in its symbolic and ritual aspects – to other forms of women's compartmentalization in modern and contemporary culture and politics. Particularly, Nicholls dedicates a central place to the “Women of the Wall” contemporary struggle, a feminist organization whose goal it is to insure equal rights for women to pray at the Western Wall.

The connection that Nicholls draws between the specific cases of gender-inequality in Synagogues and the political case of gender-inequality at the Western Wall strengthens the position of the Western Wall as a synagogue – a site that functioned as a holy place that included voluntary prayers and was transmitted into an Israeli “National Synagogue” that includes routine and permanent prayers, a transmutation that indicates the Zionist ownership on a Palestinian place. I will stretch out the junction of power relations of the Western Wall and will examine the position of Ladies Guild Collection within it. The discussion will illuminate the complexity of gender resistance and the ways in which it profounds other forms of oppression. Following this discussion, I will turn to a visual object that is hanged on synagogues’ walls, the Shiviti-Mizrach tablet, and mark the ways in which Nicholls is shifting the theological-political perception that is expressed in the tablets for her own gender criticism. This comparison will enable to profound the gaze of the tangled net of politics, theology, aesthetics and gender resistance.

Roni Tzoreff is a doctoral candidate in the department of Arts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Milano and Dr. Sara Offenberg. She received scholarships for outstanding students from of Advanced Graduate student and from J. R. Center. Her research focuses on the representation of feminine experiences in the religious space in the contemporary art, from gender, aesthetic and Jewish thought perspectives. In 2018 she published an article in She Writes in White Ink: On Aesthetic, Religious and Gender Perceptions in the Work of Jacqueline Nicholls.

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